Our Story - inv Governance (Class of 2018)
Director of Clinical Operations

Vanessa Nieto

Now hailing from Westchester, New York, Vanessa was born in Bogota, Colombia and immigrated to this country with her family when she was four years old. While pursuing a unique combination of studies in environmental engineering and dance at Columbia University, Vanessa worked to build a student-run global health and sustainable development organization on campus and taught sexual health education in Brooklyn public high schools. In her most recent role as a health educator and clinical research coordinator, she worked with local immigrant populations exploring strategies for stroke treatment and prevention. Through her involvement with the Human Rights Initiative, she hopes to continue empowering students and health professionals to empower underserved communities. In her free time she can be found expanding her baking repertoire, fostering kittens, or salsa dancing in her pajamas.

Director of Organizational Operations

Tony Valenzuela

Tony is originally from Bethesda, MD and graduated from Yale University in 2013. After graduation, he worked as an associate for a healthcare consulting firm in New York City focusing on drug development and clinical trial design. Tony's various projects in oncology and inborn errors of metabolism exposed him to differences in disease epidemiology and access to diagnostic and therapeutic care by region and population. Tony is excited to be joining the HRI team as the Director of Organizational Operations, and looks forward to further expanding the organization's role in human rights discussions on campus. In his spare time, he can be found baking, writing, and singing in languages he does not speak.

Clinical Care Coordinators

Daniel McConnell

Dan is originally from Northern New Jersey and graduated from Columbia University in 2014. Dan comes to the Asylum Clinic with three years of experience working as an EMT with Columbia University EMS in New York City. He served as the corps' Executive Director for a year where he led a large re-branding and professionalization of the organize campaign. Dan has had a strong interest in international medicine and human rights ever since studying healthcare humanitarian crises in Beijing, China. He hopes to bring his leadership and organizational talents to the clinical care coordinator position.

Deborah Smith

Deb graduated from Brown in 2012 and lived in Washington, DC for the past two years before entering medical school. Along with the P&S Human Rights Initiative, she is also a student leader for the Columbia chapter of the American Medical Women's Association, the Oncology Interest Society and P&S for the Arts, and in her free time, she loves exploring new restaurants, wine bars, cultural fairs, museums and all of the other wonderful opportunities that the city has to offer! Deb was also especially drawn to Columbia because of its incredibly strong social conscience and exceptional commitment to social justice, working on behalf of disadvantaged communities throughout Harlem, Washington Heights, Inwood and the South Bronx as well as the rest of the greater New York metropolitan area through its four community clinics. She loves exploring the intersections of clinical medicine with law, ethics and public policy through HRI and feels honored to serve alongside the rest of the board (You guys are the best!) this year as Clinical Care Coordinator.

Training and Education Coordinator

Jacob Hartman

Jacob grew up (and continues to live to this day) in New York City. He majored in English at Columbia University, and wrote his thesis on poems by William Wordsworth. After college, Jacob worked as an analyst at a boutique litigation firm in New York City, where he specialized in international judgment enforcement and asset tracing. He also created and implemented a training curriculum for the firm's analysts across five global offices. Before coming to P&S, he completed the postbaccalaureate premedical program at Bryn Mawr College. Jacob is excited to be a part of the HRI team in the position of Training Coordinator, and to build on his experience in the legal industry in order to assist clients through a process that lies at the intersection of law and medicine.

Events Coordinator

Nicholas Teodoro

Growing up in Arizona, Nick was exposed to health and social disparities among immigrants in the United States. After graduating from Brigham Young University, he worked in community health in Washington, DC while earning his Master of Public Health in epidemiology. While in DC, Nick was involved in projects ranging from mental health and sexual health to medical neutrality in Syria. He is interested in the intersection of health and human rights in the United States and globally, especially the role and ethics of physician involvement. He looks forward to broadening the involvement of medical students and faculty into the discussion of human rights as events coordinator.

Monitoring and Evaluation Coordinator

Sarah McKetta

Sarah grew up in Austin, Texas. She got her bachelor's degree in biological anthropology at Harvard College in 2008 and afterwards worked at Planned Parenthood in Texas for two years, serving an a low-income ESL community and providing abortion education and care. She then obtained her MPH from Harvard School of Public Health in 2012, and while getting her master's degree was involved in gender rights advocacy and health disparities work. Prior to coming to Columbia, she worked in research at Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts. She is currently pursuing a joint MD/PhD (PhD in social epidemiology, particularly health disparities) and is a full-fledged cat lady.

Publicity Coordinator

Lisa Grossman

Lisa grew up in southern Colorado, at the foot of Pikes Peak. She graduated from Duke University, where she conducted studies describing maternal mortality in Haiti and finding drug targets in Hodgkin's lymphoma. Lisa spent the past two years in Zambia teaching nurses and doctors about cervical cancer screening, and wondering why the USA's HPV vaccination coverage is so much worse than Zambia's. Lisa spends her free time rock climbing, doing graphic design, and drinking wine, sometimes all at the same time. She was the one who built this website.

Continuing Care Coordinator

Jemma Benson

Jemma graduated from Haverford College in 2013, where she majored in anthropology. She was lucky enough to spend a lot of time in Nicaragua during her years at Haverford interning at an organization that works to reduce infant and maternal mortality rates, and conducting her senior thesis about the Sandinista Literacy Crusade of 1980. After graduating, Jemma spent a year working at Puentes de Salud, an organization that works to support the health and wellness of Philadelphia's Latino immigrant community, as the program supervisor for the elementary school education program. She is delighted to be joining the Asylum Board in the highly alliterative position of Continuing Care Coordinator.

Fundraising Coordinator

Taylor Compton

Taylor is from California and graduated from Harvard in 2013 with a major in neurobiology and a minor in Spanish. At Harvard she worked as a director at the Annual Fund Phonathon at the Radcliffe Institute for advanced study. Taylor loves working with children and wrote her undergraduate thesis on infants' spatial memory development. She spent last year teaching and coaching at a school in London. She is excited to serve as the Fundraising director for HRI.

Recruitment Coordinators

Fatimah Alkhunaizi

Fatimah graduated from Johns Hopkins University in 2014, where she majored in Neuroscience and did Schizophrenia research for three years. Having spent half of her life in the United States and the other half in Saudi Arabia, Fatimah has become very interested in the role of culture and society in health, particularly mental health. During her undergraduate years in Baltimore, Fatimah worked with the International Rescue Committee as a family mentor for refugees affected by war and disaster, helping them adjust to their new life in the United States and bridging cultural gaps. She is thrilled to be joining the Asylum Board this year as one of the Recruitment Coordinators.

Susel Oropesa

Susie grew up in Miami, Florida and graduated from Yale University in 2014. Originally from Cuba, Susel comes to Asylum with the desire to help those, who like her, have experienced hardships to come to the United States and achieve official residency in the United States. Susel worked at the HAVEN Free Clinic for four years helping immigrants receive proper medical care. She is interested in becoming a physician who is involved in improving human rights in the United States and Latin America. She is excited to join the HRI team one of the Recruitment Coordinators.

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