Biomedical engineering graduate uses degree to fight global health care disparities

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Tannia Rodriguez Valenzuela is using her biomedical engineering degree to become a doctor who fights for global health equity.  She doesn’t believe it is sufficient to receive a typical medical degree and wants to ensure her career as a doctor is backed with additional skills.  

“If I’m a doctor and an engineer, I can make new devices and technology to directly help people,” she said. 

Before graduating in May 2017, Rodriguez Valenzuela worked on multiple prototypes, including a redesigned glucose monitor for the visually impaired and an app that turns spirometer exercises into an entertaining game. Currently, she works in a tissue engineering lab, where her research focuses on creating blood vessels from stem cells.  

Rodriguez Valenzuela's fight against health care inequity began in 2013, when she and her brother founded the Wayne State University chapter of Timmy Global Health, an organization that provides reoccurring health care to international communities. Each year, the Wayne State chapter visits the Dominican Republic. These visits made Rodriguez Valenzuela determined to use her engineering skills to make global change.  

 “My goal as a future doctor is not to just make money and see patients. I want to volunteer my time," she said. "It’s not enough to do things locally — that’s just the first step. If you move abroad, you can make a bigger impact.”  

In recognition of these achievements, Rodriguez Valenzuela was granted the Student Spirit of Community Award in 2018. This award honors individuals who facilitate meaningful relationships within the Wayne State and Detroit communities. 

Rodriguez Valenzuela is currently completing her master’s in global health at the University of California San Francisco. This degree will tie together her skills in biomedical engineering and her dedication to making global change, she said. She hopes to return to Wayne State for medical school.   

“I love Detroit, and there’s so much work to be done here," she said. "This is the one place where I feel like I can accomplish a lot.” 

150 years in the heart of Detroit