Extra, Extra! Med student selected for prestigious Stanford fellowship

A UMMS student is taking a year off for training in an unusual sub-specialty: journalism.

Gina Yu in Uganda in 2017. The UMMS student has been selected to participate in a Global Health Media Fellowship program through Stanford.

M4 Gina Yu is the 2019 recipient of Stanford’s unique Global Health Media Fellowship, which teaches physicians-in-training to leverage the media in order to advocate and inform on global health issues. She will spend the next year in California taking master’s-level journalism courses, interning at CNN, and developing a capstone field project. The fellowship began this month.

“I’ve always been aware that physicians have a huge responsibility to share our knowledge with the general public,” Yu said. “It’s important to advocate for people globally who need help or access but who might not be able to effectively share their own stories.”

Stanford selects one fellow each year for the program. Yu, who hails from Saline, just south of Ann Arbor, is the first UMMS student to be selected. As an undergraduate at Harvard, she wrote a regular opinion column on medical ethics for the student-run Harvard Crimson. As a second-year medical student at UMMS, Yu spent much of the summer of 2017 in Uganda helping with a research project to explore mental health among those infected with HIV.

“This particular fellowship checked all of the boxes for me,” she said. “I know I want to build some sort of global health aspect into my career and I’ve always been interested in medical journalism – writing about medicine in a way that is most approachable.”

Yu applied for the program early this year and had two rounds of interviews, including a phone conversation with CNN medical reporter (and UMMS alum) Sanjay Gupta.

“That was the second-round interview, and it was very surreal,” Yu said. “It was nice because Dr. Gupta knew I was from U-M and we were able to talk about that. When I got the email in April that I’d been selected, I was beyond excited. It’s an amazing opportunity.”

Yu doesn’t yet know exactly what her fellowship capstone project might focus on, but she is considering something around mental health and ophthalmology; her interest in medicine started because of her father’s issues with blindness stemming from surgical complications.

“Mental health is one of those topics that can be highly stigmatized and it doesn’t help when it’s reported on by people who may not really understand it very well,” she said. “As physicians, we’re in a position to be able to do something it about it, making sure topics don’t get sensationalized in ways that reinforce stigma. It’s a huge privilege that we get to hear people’s stories. But it’s also a privilege to be able to turn around and share those stories in a way that informs and helps others.”