Shebani Dandekar, Team Leader
Shebani was born in Illinois, grew up in Virginia, then moved to California in high school and so she is still confused about whether she identifies as a Midwesterner, an East Coaster, or a West Coaster. Shebani earned her BS degree in Neurobiology, Physiology, and Behavior with a minor in Music from UC Davis and her MS degree in Global Health Sciences from UCSF. For her master’s thesis project, she had the amazing opportunity to go to Uganda and study the experiences of mothers practicing Kangaroo Mother Care, which ironically did not involve any kangaroos. Now, as a medical student at California Northstate University, Shebani continues to follow her passion for global health and for caring for underserved and diverse communities—Shebani serves as a volunteer for various free clinics in Sacramento, CA and for the non-profit organization Health4TheWorld. In her extremely limited spare time, Shebani loves to play and discover new music, watch films, learn new languages, go on hikes, and spend time with friends and family.
Purnima Gurung, Team Member
Born and raised in San Francisco, Purnima cultivated a love for her city’s diversity in people and food, forming an addiction to boba milk tea and sushi at an early age. She received her undergraduate degree in neuroscience and her master’s degree in global medicine from the University of Southern California. She is a second-year medical student at California Northstate University, School of Medicine and spends her time setting up and participating in student-run clinics that serve diverse, underserved populations in Sacramento. She enjoys learning about new cultures and languages, eating new foods and traveling in hopes of deepening her global health experiences.
Aaron Yim, Team Member
Although born in New Jersey, Aaron is a 100% California grown Korean-American who was raised in the East Bay. Aaron is a 2nd year medical student at California Northstate University, where he continues to bask in the Golden State sun. He doubled majored in Environmental Studies and Biological Sciences at UC Santa Barbara, where he cultivated his interests in global warming, ecology, evolution, and botany. Aside from all things nature, he loves music and has played the double bass since elementary school, which has given him wonderful opportunities to perform and connect with individuals in places ranging from Alaska to Australia to Austria and even to China.
Kyumin Shim, Team Member
Kyumin Shim came to the US from South Korea as a young girl, not knowing the culture, language or any of the future challenges she would face. However, she found support and was readily welcomed by the diverse communities in the Bay Area of California. During her undergraduate years at University of California, Davis, she travelled to Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic with a team of students to work alongside local medical professionals to provide free healthcare. This transformative experience was the initial push and drive she needed to pursue medicine. She is currently a second-year student at California Northstate University and is thrilled to have the chance to continue to expand her passion for global health alongside incredible members of the Dream Team.
Cindy Lam, Team Member
Cindy grew up in a tight-knitted rural village in Vietnam where clean water and electricity are not readily available. When she was thirteen, she moved to San Francisco, CA where she was immediately captivated by the smooth roads with fast cars, the community playgrounds with well-groomed plants, and the sky that wouldn’t get dark until 9pm. But more than anything, it was the diversity and intermingling of food, languages, and cultures that made her fall in love with the city. She studied Integrative Biology at University of California, Berkeley and is now a second-year medical student at California Northstate University. She is passionate toward serving the marginalized community because she was once a part of that community. In her free time, she maintains her school’s local community garden, where she plants peppers, tomatoes, and other fruits and vegetables to be donated to the Sacramento Food Bank.
“When I think about my work and my life, I feel tristeza. I feel weak and dizzy. There are times when I think my life has no meaning,” explained Jose, a 19 year-old patient, concerned about having diabetes. It was Jose’s first time at Clinica Tepati, a free student-run clinic that provides healthcare to underserved populations in Sacramento, CA, specifically targeting the Latino community. He expressed that he was from an immigrant family that only spoke Spanish. He did not receive any higher education and instead, worked in construction. Jose’s mother had urged him to visit the clinic due to his tristeza, a type of sadness commonly believed in Mexican culture to cause diabetes.
As volunteers at Clinica Tepati, we met many patients like Jose. We were humbled by their stories, which revealed the complex relationships between their culture, social background, and health. Through our experiences, we believe that a deeper understanding of our patients’ narratives, including the social determinants of their health, cultivates the communication skills and open-mindedness necessary to provide personalized care. We aspire to increase our global health knowledge in order to become physicians who can advocate for patients of diverse backgrounds.
Such encounters in the clinic provided us the opportunity to appreciate the beliefs and motivations of people from diverse backgrounds, which have enabled us to be more open-minded. As future global health professionals, we continue to grow through these experiences by learning to understand and respect our patients’ choices and differences. In this way, we can be receptive to our patients’ cultural beliefs and the social determinants that influence their health in order to create an environment where our patients can openly discuss their concerns. For instance, recognizing the cultural beliefs surrounding tristeza and diabetes in the Mexican community shows our patients that we can work with them to provide care which respects their views and supports their health goals.
Through this established rapport, we could better identify the care strategies that fit their lifestyle and culture, and motivate our patients to reach their long-term health goals. With continued understanding of broader social inequities, we will be better equipped to foster open communication and establish long-term, sustainable care, which would promote consistency of service and improve health outcomes for our patients and community.
As medical students in Sacramento, which houses one of the most diverse populations, we have witnessed the need in our local communities for culturally competent care and an understanding of different cultures. Being from a new medical school, we have a need for more global health opportunities and with Timmy Global Health, we are excited to immerse ourselves in cultures outside of our own and strive to provide healthcare to underserved populations. We hope to grow from this experience and apply the gained knowledge and skills to better provide for patients, like Jose, empower our community to embrace cultural differences, and ultimately reduce the health disparities in underserved populations through culturally sensitive care.