Listen, Learn, Teach: Rachel Rizal '09

Wednesday, May 10, 2017
by Alex Wheatley '16

Fulbright Scholar, published author, Harvard resident, Stanford grad, Princeton grad: these are the terms used to describe Rachel Elise Rizal. A 2009 graduate of the Woodrow Wilson School, Rachel has followed her passion for healthcare delivery and health education to incredible places.

Rachel’s global health story truly begins with her thesis. Funded by the Merck Adel Mahmoud Global Health scholarship, Rachel spent her senior summer studying vaccine delivery in the Philippines. She observed vaccinations at health clinics in poor rural and urban settings, and interviewed public health officials on local and national scales. The research helped her to understand some of the economic, political, governmental, public, and pharmaceutical perspectives on healthcare delivery and access to care. She saw that successful vaccination programs involve triumphs in coordination: pharmaceutical companies, NGOs, and national governments must work together to finance the vaccines, cold chains must be maintained throughout all aspects of delivery, patients must be educated, and records must be accurate. Her thesis, “Vaccine Introduction in Middle-Income Countries: The Philippines’ Experience,” analyzed these challenges and dynamics. She loved her time abroad; “being able to go abroad to study public health was extremely important to my growth. I not only gained theoretical knowledge of health issues, but also acquired practical experiences.” Rachel says that her thesis was the highlight of her global health experience at Princeton.

Driven by her thesis, Rachel pursued a Fulbright Fellowship in the Philippines after graduation. She spent a year working with the World Health Organization to improve Hepatitis B newborn vaccination rates in Metro-Manila. In this role, she organized public education seminars and facilitated public-private partnerships between public health clinics and private community hospitals throughout four cities. During this period, Rachel also worked to curb an HIV epidemic that had begun in the Philippines in 2008. She helped to launch the national HIV Awareness Campaign, lead the publicity events for the program, and organized a nation-wide benefit rock concert (which funded a CD4 machine for a Philippines public hospital). These experiences illustrate a central tenet of Rachel’s life: she is an educator. Her experiences in the Philippines demonstrate a period of listening and learning followed by work teaching and bringing people together. She is passionate about giving back to her communities. This love for education and mentorship is evident in her work at Stanford.

Rachel graduated from Stanford Medical School in 2016 with a scholarly concentration in Health Policy and Research. While in school, she co-directed Flu Crew, a student-run group that distributes and administers free vaccinations in low-income communities around Santa Clara County. Under her leadership, the program partnered with Khan Academy and the Stanford School of Medicine to release a series of educational videos about flu vaccines. Flu Crew also doubled its number of vaccinations at Stanford University’s campus and expanded to medical schools at UC San Francisco and UC Davis while Rachel was at head. She is passionate about education, and it shows in the successes she has had in work.

While at Stanford, Rachel also gave back in a different way: she and fellow Stanford University Students wrote “Cracking Med School Admissions: Trusted Advice From Students Who’ve Been There.” The group continues to write a blog with tips and advice, while the book is available on Amazon and their website. Both are great resources for pre-meds. Rachel’s passion for teaching others is evident in all aspects of her health journey. Her advice for GHP students? “Make the most of the inspiring mentors and phenomenal resources around you at Princeton.”

After residency, Rachel aspires to “lead healthcare organizations that tackle problems of healthcare delivery, care coordination, and health education.” She will continue to listen, learn, and teach, following an MO that has benefitted her and her communities these past ten years.