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Shoshana Aleinikoff '08

Our 2008 JFK Awardee dreams of improving health care worldwide

See January, 2012 update

Shoshana Aleinkoff '08 and Mike Newman

Mike Newman presenting a 2008 JFK Award to Shoshana Aleinikoff

Shoshana Aleinikoff '08, who hails from Chevy Chase, MD, is currently earning her M.D. degree at the Georgetown University School of Medicine, while simultaneously pursuing a Masters in Public Health at Johns Hopkins. These two degrees will help her fulfill her dream of improving health care through medical research, delivery, and the writing of public health policy both in this country and abroad. In a recent letter she thanks the Class of 1964 for the Award, “an incredible honor,” which is helping to defray the high cost of her double tuition.

The motivation for embarking on such an ambitious path comes from Shoshana’s becoming aware, while at Cornell, of the terrible effects of poverty on its victims’ health, longevity, and quality of life. By being Project Leader in the Tompkins County Rural Poverty Study, she learned of the stress-related illnesses which attack children of the poor, decreasing the ability to learn, down-regulating immunity, and shortening lives. This experience galvanized her into action.
While maintaining excellence in her academic work, Shosh managed to carry on a number of activities, including helping charities get started on campus through her work on the board of Cornell’s Public Service Center and serving as chair of the Sphinx Head honor society.

A creative soul at heart, Shoshana found a way of helping poor children in rural Africa. She lived for a while in the village of Humjibre, Ghana, working for “Cover Africa” to eliminate malaria — the world’s biggest killer of children — through education and other resources. Malaria is a preventable and treatable disease yet, on average, it is killing an African child every 30 seconds. Metaphorically “covering” the village with mosquito-repellent bed netting and using new drugs to help sick Ghanians recover from the disease, she and fellow Cornell students made inroads against the disease in Humjibre.

Through medical, educational, and policy intervention, Shosh plans to spend her life as a social entrepreneur fighting the “various, pernicious, and inexorable” effects of poverty on human populations all over the world, beginning in this country. Her accomplishments in Ghana were praised by Cornell President David Skorton in his May, 2008 graduation address, in which he mentioned that Shoshana had won the Class of 1964 JFK Memorial Award for her outstanding efforts.

President Skorton is not the only one to observe Shosh’s accomplishments. “This student is extraordinary. Smart, disciplined, reflective, mature way beyond her years, and extremely committed…. I have been teaching for 30 years and have seen only one or two like this” writes one of her professors. Another observes that “this young woman is already a star and will truly make a change in global health and public service. I cannot imagine a finer candidate.”

January, 2012 update from Shoshana Aleinikoff

After graduation I went off to Georgetown University School of Medicine. While at Georgetown I became deeply involved in The HOYA Clinic, a student-run free clinic for homeless families in Washington, DC. I had the privilege of serving as one of the student coordinators (coordinating all aspects of clinic operations) in 2009-2010, and now serve on the advisory board and continue to volunteer at the clinic as a student clinician. I have also led research to characterize the health barriers for homeless families in DC, as well as a project which looked at HIV screening rates in primary care settings in the DC metropolitan area.


I have had the privilege of working with a number of local organizations, including Physicians for Human Rights, conducting medical evaluations for refugee patients seeking asylum, and Prevention Works!, a harm reduction organization. I have completed supplemental curriculum in Medical Spanish and Cultural Competency, and in addition, will graduate with distinction as a Health Right and Social Justice Scholar.

I am currently preparing for a month long trip to Tanzania, to work in a medical clinic at Nyarugusu refugee camp with the Tanzanian Red Cross. I am applying to residency in Family Medicine, and am excited to start the next chapter of my training, and to continue to provide primary care to underserved communities both locally and globally.