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Current Board

Rasa Valiauga, '26


Rasa graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2014 and spent four years as a research specialist studying retinogenesis and using stem cells as therapies for degenerative retinal diseases. She is currently pursuing her MD/PhD dual degree. Rasa has leadership roles in numerous organizations and is passionate about service. She has an adventurous spirit and loves trying out new activities, as well as throwing down in the kitchen.

Sarah Ditelberg '26

Creative/Media Director

Sarah grew up in the wicked awesome city of Boston and attended UMass Amherst, graduating in 2020 with a degree in biology. She is passionate about space medicine, innovation, and service. She aims to make science and medicine inclusive, fun, and accessible to many different backgrounds (catch her on The Interactome, another podcast she runs with friends from home!) Outside of school, Sarah enjoys any good adventure, hiking, running, spending time with friends and family, experimenting with new recipes, skiing, and good music.

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Megan Bollinger, '26

Creative/Media Director

Megan was born and raised in Baltimore, Maryland. She received her Bachelors of Chemistry and Forensic Science from Loyola University New Orleans and her Masters of Medical Physiology from Loyola University Chicago. She is passionate about healthy food as preventative medicine and is part of the ENRICH community garden in Maywood. She has loved the city of Chicago ever since moving here in 2020. Her hobbies include farmers markets, reading, taking care of plants, and working at a bakery in her neighborhood on Sundays - Lost Larson in Wicker Park!

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John Engelbert, '26

Creative/Media Director

Born and raised in the mighty northwest side of Chicago, John graduated from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign with a degree in behavioral neuroscience. Throughout his time as a college student and during his two gap years prior to starting medical school, John worked as an EMT with a private ambulance company and as a tech in Glenbrook Hospital’s ER. John is passionate about neuroscience, particularly where the fields of psychiatry and neurology intersect, and is on the Neurosurgery Interest Group Board as Secretary. Broadly, he wants to spend his career finding the most effective ways of improving the well-being of his patients. In his off-time, you can find John traveling, hiking, running, skiing, not ping-ponging, enjoying music, movies, books and board games, walking Clarke, cooking with only Costco products, and spending as much time as possible with friends and family.

Katie Mott, '24

Talent Acquisition and Training

Katherine is a native of Minnetonka, Minnesota. She graduated from the University of Chicago with a Bachelor’s in Biology. Before joining the Medicus team, Katherine worked as a nursing assistant at a community hospital, served as a Promise Fellow through AmeriCorps, and worked at nursing homes throughout high school. Her interests include storytelling, caring for the elderly, and all things Chicago (hot dogs, running on Lakeshore Drive, stand-up comedy, the White Sox, etc.). She also currently serves as a Senior and Caregiver Intern at the Quinn Center of St. Eulalia in Maywood, IL.

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Jackie Tarsitano, '25

Chief Technical Officer

Jackie was born and raised in the beautiful central coast of California and received her bachelor’s in Molecular and Cell Biology at UC Berkeley. She spent her gap years in New York City researching genetics, performing improv, and working as an EMT.  In her free time, she loves reading, playing with her two cats, and singing showtunes poorly.

Medicus Podcasters

Emily Hagen, '24

A New York native, Emily graduated from Cornell University as a Human Development major. In between college and medical school, Emily helped conduct clinical trials studying kidney cancer treatments at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center and volunteered as a Crisis Counselor for Crisis Text Line. It was during her gap years that she also discovered Medicus. When starting Stritch, she knew she wanted to learn the art of podcasting with Medicus as a way to combine her love for storytelling and advocacy. She is passionate about bioethics and the humanities and has published articles pertaining to wisdom, the autopsy, and discussing death. Her hobbies include listening to various podcasts, running, and writing. Emily is an aspiring internist.

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Aaron Deng, '24

Aaron was born and raised in San Jose, CA and went to college at the University of California, San Diego. After graduating in 2019, Aaron worked as a clinical research coordinator. Aaron is passionate about youth empowerment and medical education and continues to stay active in both endeavors. Outside of medicine, Aaron is an avid hip-hop dancer, budding amateur tonkotsu ramen chef, sports fan, and computer game nerd.

Monica Contractor '24

Monica Contractor is a city girl at heart - born and raised in the best city, Chicago! She graduated from Loyola University Chicago with a major in Psychology and a minor in Biology. Since college, Monica has been dedicated to increasing awareness about gender based violence and supporting sexual assault survivors. She is passionate about community organizing, social justice, advocacy/activism, comprehensive health education, bioethics, health psychology, women’s health, and global & community health. In her free time, Monica loves karaoke, dancing, exploring cultures through food, watching the same netflix shows over and over again, and having fun in the city.

Lauren Hekman, '25

Born and raised in Los Angeles, California, Lauren Hekman graduated from the University of California, Los Angeles in 2019 where she majored in Biology. After graduation, Lauren worked at a healthcare startup company called Forward as a medical assistant. She also spent a lot of time traveling in her time before medical school, exploring around Southeast Asia and Central and South America. In addition to medicine, Lauren is passionate about travel and is an advanced scuba diver. Fun fact, she lived in the Amazon rainforest of Peru for a month where she completed behavioral research on a species of bird called the Hoatzin.

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Isabelle Tan, '25

Isabelle was born and raised in Singapore, where she attended Singapore American School from K-12. She graduated from the University of California, Berkeley in 2019 with a degree in Integrative Biology and a minor in Creative Writing. She spent two years prior to medical school in San Francisco assisting an orthopaedic spine surgeon, working at the Palo Alto VA, and painting custom denim jackets. Isabelle is passionate about global health, manta rays, basketball, books, and movies with good soundtracks. She is terrible at ping pong.

Insup Hong, '25

From South Korea, Insup grew up in the Chicagoland suburbs. He graduated with a bachelor’s of science in biochemistry from the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign and a master’s of arts in medical sciences from Loyola University Chicago. He is passionate about medical education and training, mental health advocacy in medical school, and clinical research. In his free time, he enjoys listening to podcasts, playing volleyball, and spending time with his friends and family.

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Ari Peikes, '25

Ari is a Chicago native who spent some time living in Baltimore. Prior to medical school, Ari worked as a high school science teacher. He enjoys learning about all things medicine, and meeting interesting people who have had non-traditional journeys to medical school. In his free time, Ari enjoys playing guitar, fixing things around the house and spending time with his wife and their three children: Joseph, Olivia and Rose.

Nikita Ganeshan, '26

Nikita grew up along the coast of beautiful Orange County, CA and attended the University of California, Irvine, graduating with a degree in Biomedical Engineering. Prior to starting medical school she worked as a Biomedical Engineer and Scientist for Quest Diagnostics. She is passionate about advocating for interdisciplinary medicine, academic medicine, healthcare entrepreneurship, health policy shaped by science. Nikita is involved in the Academic Medicine Interest group, research, and community clinics through Stritch. Outside of school, her hobbies include dancing, hiking, climbing, reading, and spending time with friends and family.

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Vamsi Rojulpote, '26

Vamsi grew up outside Philadelphia and graduated from the University of Pittsburgh with a degree in Neuroscience. Prior to attending Stritch, Vamsi worked at the National Institutes of Health conducting lipoprotein metabolism research. Vamsi is passionate about teaching and global health. Beyond medicine, he enjoys attending stand-up comedy, hiking, playing chess, reading, listening to podcasts, and exploring new coffee shops.

Deborah Chen, '27

Deborah grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area and attended the University of California, Berkeley with a major in Molecular Environmental Biology and a minor in Molecular Toxicology in 2020. She then worked as a medical assistant for two years and earned her Master of Public Health at the University of California, Davis with a concentration in epidemiology in 2023. Deborah is interested in learning more about environmental, global, and public health at Stritch. Outside of school, she enjoys drawing, photography, embroidery, and spicy cuisine.


Griffin Johnson, '27

Griffin grew up in the northern Chicago suburbs. He worked as a firefighter/paramedic before starting medical school. He graduated from Northeastern Illinois University in 2022 where he majored in biology.  Outside of school, he enjoys playing music.

Julien Stroumza, '27

Julien is from San Francisco, CA and majored in biochemistry at UC San Diego with a minor in business. His interests include learning more about different professions in medicine and understanding the impact of diet and exercise on overall health. Julien is passionate about service, teaching, and preserving the environment. Between exams he can be found exploring nature, running, biking, and trying new foods.

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Rohan Mandavilli, '27

Rohan is a first-year medical student from Atlanta, Georgia. He majored in Cellular and Molecular Biology from Augusta University. His interests include cooking, baking, lifting, and scuba diving. He is also the Vice President of his class and is involved in PULSE, medical chinese, and medical spanish. When you cannot get ahold of him, he is either napping or playing with his dog.

Medicus Alumni

Raj Ramini, MD '23

Raj grew up in Dayton, Ohio and attended Wright State University for his undergraduate degree. During college, Raj spent a year as an AmeriCorps member where he worked with local high school students to address health disparities in their communities. At Stritch, he was also the outreach coordinator for the PM&R interest group. In his free time, he enjoys listening to podcasts and audiobooks, exploring the city of Chicago, and beating Shawn at ping pong. His next stop is Inspira Health Network in New Jersey.

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Shawn Choe, MD '23

Born in Korea and a Chicago native, Shawn initially graduated from University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and joined Medicus because of his passion for hearing people’s stories. He was the current president and founder of Programming in Medicine (PiM), which aims to teach medical students programming so that they can utilize this skill for either research or future projects. His hobbies include watching movies, K-dramas and lifting. His next stop is Neurosurgery residency at Loyola University Medical Center.

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Brendan Connolly, MD '23

Born and raised in Nashville, TN, Brendan graduated from Princeton University in 2013, where he majored in Politics and was Captain of the basketball team. After college, he spent one year in Syracuse, NY with the Jesuit Volunteer Corps and two years working as a consultant in Orange County, CA before turning to medicine and completing a premedical program at Tufts University in Boston. He also worked as a medical scribe with ScribeAmerica and as a pulmonary function tech at Massachusetts General Hospital prior to medical school. He is pursuing a career in Emergency Medicine. Outside of Medicus, Brendan has volunteered with hospice patients and with the Chicago People’s Rights Collaborative. Hobbies include board gaming, movies, reading, and watching or playing basketball and soccer. He has beaten Raj in ping pong, but not Shawn. His next stop is Emergency Medicine Residency at Maine Medical Center.

Dave Lee, MD, MPH '23

Dave graduated from Gonzaga University in 2014, and completed a master’s at Georgetown University in 2016. He is passionate about addressing systemic health disparities in our communities. When he’s not at school, you can find Dave dancing, drawing, or hanging out on a trapeze. His next stop is Psychiatry residency at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

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Olivia Gyssler, '24

Olivia grew up in Riverside, IL and graduated from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign with her Bachelors of Science in Molecular & Cellular Biology with certificates in Neuroscience and Cell & Developmental Biology. She is passionate about mentorship for underprivileged students interested in pursuing careers in medicine, as well as healthcare for underserved/uninsured patients. Olivia was also the Director of Medical Spanish and one of the M1 Coordinators for Community Health Clinic. She enjoys true-crime podcasts, reading, and visiting new ice cream shops around the Chicago-land area.

Brittany Zelch, '24

Brittany graduated from Northwestern University with a Bachelor’s in Biology and a minor in Global Health Studies. After college, she worked for three years at a nonprofit focused on leadership development in global health equity. Brittany went back to school full-time and received her Masters in Medical Sciences at Loyola University Chicago. Outside of Medicus, Brittany served as the Director of Education for the Academic Medicine Interest Group (AMIG), Course Director for the Leadership Elective, and Vice President of the Jewish Student Association at Stritch. In her free time, Brittany loves listening to podcasts, trying out new forms of fitness (current favorites include cycling and hiking), and spending time on the lakefront trail by Lake Michigan.

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