MU Grad, Dr. Vora, The CEO of Global Brigades, Returns to Campus for Mission Week Feb. 8th

Dr.+Shital+Vora+attended+the+2018+Marquette+Medical+Brigade+to+commemorate+the+15th+anniversary+of+the+very+first+medical+brigade+she+went+on+as+an+undergraduate+student.+

Photo by Jesse Lee

Dr. Shital Vora attended the 2018 Marquette Medical Brigade to commemorate the 15th anniversary of the very first medical brigade she went on as an undergraduate student.

Many university students jump at the idea to study abroad, a way to travel independently and to experience an unfamiliar world. Marquette Alum, co-founder and CEO of Global Brigades, Shital Vora, had a desire for the study abroad experience. Yet, she felt she would never be able to satisfy this want due to the vigorous academic schedule she held as an undergraduate student in the Physical Therapy program.   

Nevertheless, a conversation in Caffrey’s Pub between Vora  and friend, Jeff, would dissipate this hopeless ideal and lead to the largest student-held movement for global health and holistic development.

Vora explained her frustration to Jeff: not being able to study abroad throughout her college career because her academic itinerary would not allow it.  

Jeff explained to Vora that his neighbor was a physician, who traveled to Honduras every year with other doctors. Then, they had an idea … “what if we tagged along and did spring break with them?”

Vora said the two knew it wouldn’t be the entire abroad experience, but it was the best they could get considering the schedule of the PT program. After gathering a group of students who also had the inability to study abroad, the group headed off to Honduras for spring break with a team of physicians. 

Since none of the students attending this brigade obtained any degrees or medical licenses, Vora had the expectation that they would be the “grunt workers” and would only shadow these doctors. Soon, they realized that this experience was tremendously impactful, not only to themselves as undergraduate students, but to the communities and individual people they were able to connect with and empower.

“We came back to campus with this buzz. We were just pumped and motivated to go backVora said. 

Vora searched for organizations that offered programs similar to the trip they had previously taken to Honduras, but there was nothing like it.  

“We saw a lot of poverty, a lot of people who had no resources, or very limited, and we felt that we had to do something about that,” Vora said. There were no organization that offered the resources and experience the group had endured on the first trip to Honduras, so Vora and co-founders had an ambition to drive and start an organization. 

In 2003, approximately 25-30 Marquette undergraduate students gathered, creating the first Global Brigade chapter and taking two trips a year to remain committed. 

Global Brigades’ growth as an organization was an immediate domino effect, gaining two other chapters within a year. One of the (past) students who attended the first Marquette brigade, posted about the experience via Facebook, which led to a friend at the University of Michigan to start a chapter ,then after the Michigan chapter went on their first brigade. A personal connection to the University of Southern California became interested and the dominos kept falling.

The following year ended with 80 chapters, due to the power of social media networking, commitment and empowerment. Today, Global Brigades holds the title as the Largest Student Movement for Global Health and Development, with over 450 active high school and university groups. 

Vora’s commitment and passion still pertain. Vora returned to campus Feb. 8 for Mission Week.

This story was written by Aspen Ramos. She can be reached at aspen.ramos@marquette.edu