North Brunswick ‘changemakers’ focus on under-representation in medicine

Teams of young changemakers from ages 13-18 gathered at T-Mobile's headquarters in Bellevue, Washington, for the company’s third Changemaker Challenge Lab in early October. The four top teams included Medicine Encompassed, a group of teens hailing from North Brunswick, who also double as a student-run non-profit organization working to solve the problem of underrepresentation in medicine.

Teams of young changemakers between the ages of 13 and 18 gathered at T-Mobile’s headquarters in Bellevue, Wash., for the company’s third Changemaker Challenge Lab. 

The four top teams in the education, environment, technology and family challenge categories had the chance to pitch their world-changing ideas directly to T-Mobile senior leaders to win a total of $15,000 in seed funding to supercharge their projects. 

All four were named grand prize winners in early October – including Medicine Encompassed, a group of teens hailing from North Brunswick, who also double as a student-run nonprofit organization working to solve the problem of under-representation in medicine.

Aliza Lopez, co-founder and co-chief executive officer, as well as chief academic officer; and Gael Gonzalez-DeLaLuz, co-founder and co-chief executive officer, as well as chief financial officer, founded Medicine Encompassed, a student-run nonprofit to solve under-representation in medicine that now has more than 1,300 members. 

Aliza and Gael are students at North Brunswick Township High School.

Medicine Encompassed aims to promote awareness and increase accessibility for individuals interested in a medical career through various mediums. One initiative is to provide resources for students to use for free.

Planning began in 2019 and the organization was established by June 2020.

“With a team of STEM-oriented individuals who are also passionate about biology, we seek to demonstrate the wide scope of what medicine encompasses,” Aliza said. “By bridging the gap between medicine, under-represented minorities and students from low-income backgrounds, our team of like-minded individuals is dedicated to creating more resources and opportunities in all medical fields. To date, we have launched 30-plus initiatives over 18-plus medical committees, producing a total of approximately 500-plus articles and 500-plus resources in process of finalization and publication.”

Based out of North Brunswick, the team members hail from 40-plus countries and 45-plus states, producing more than 1,000 articles and resources (slideshows, study guides, flash cards, etc.) about specific medical branches including neurology, pathology and pediatrics.

“As stated on our challenge entry, we have considered ourselves a dynamic duo for many activities, and STEAM and medical involvement is deep-rooted for us. The fast pace and rigor, which aligned with our multidisciplinary interests in science and technology, matched exactly with both of our inquisitiveness.

“At the same time, we have come across students whose passions rooted from the portrayal of medicine’s rapid environment in the media, to the model doctor’s kit, which helped to encapsulate our interest in intricate medical procedures at a young age. If, as a duo, we could exhibit our success from teamwork in our area of specialty, a like-minded community could achieve this at exponential rates,” Aliza said.

Thus, Medicine Encompassed was not formed from a single event or reason, but rather, identifying the need for a concrete platform.

“As students, we strive to get our voices out there, whether it is metaphorical in an article, to verbal promotion. By garnering a large following and platform of other like-minded students, our initiatives contribute to our ‘for students, by students’ approach.

“Though one of our initial goals of Medicine Encompassed was to broaden knowledge in students’ medical and biological interests, community development became rooted into our values as well.

“This time, from our previous reference to our collaborative success, the work of our student-medical community could now be done on a much larger scale — what was previously accelerated twofold could now be done by thousands of students internationally through our nonprofit,” she said.

The win from the T-Mobile competition will help further their mission.

“After working around the clock for the success of our initiatives, we both feel our designation as a grand prize winner was a culmination of our combined efforts, passions and an eye to catalyze change in communities, taking all of our contributions to Medicine Encompassed into consideration,” Aliza said.

“This title — along with the seed funding we received — will allow us to further our goals as a nonprofit to provide accessible opportunities for low-income and underserved students, as well as to defy the notion that age equates to impact,” she said.

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Contact Jennifer Amato at [email protected].