Sparked by students

In 2007, after University of Richmond professor Rick Mayes assigned his students Mountains beyond Mountains, his students became enthralled with the global health discourse. What started as a classroom interest quickly transformed into on-the-ground work in Peru. In a partnership with PAN Peru, a non-governmental organization founded by the family of one of his students, Dr. Mayes led his group of students on a service trip to a small community in the Andes Mountains, Pampas Grande

With excited and motivated students returning to campus, Dr. Mayes decided to take a second group of students on a service trip to Pampas Grande. This time, Dr. Mayes and his students recruited VCU pediatrician Sean McKenna. In Pampas Grande, Dr. McKenna worked closely with the physician at the district Health Post to provide a pediatric clinic. For many children in Pampas Grande, Dr. McKenna provided the first pediatric visit. 

Gaining momentum

Following the second trip, both students’ and Richmond-area professionals’ interest and involvement in the service trip increased. A coalition of undergraduates on University of Richmond’s campus, led by MaryGrace Apostoli, raised $6000 toward the purchase of a multi-purpose vehicle for the Pampas Grande Health Post. Additionally, Dr. McKenna recruited a new group of University of Richmond undergraduates, women’s health nurse practitioner Julie Armistead, and students from the VCU School of Medicine, including Sid Dante, to join in on the service trip.

Sid Dante soon jumped into a leadership role, overseeing the creation of project groups focused on longitudinal activities that could be carried on annually during their visit and over the year.  Along with Andrew Junkin (VCU MD ’12), Blair Armistead (UR ’11, VCU MPH ’13), Morgan Vargo (UR ’10, VCU MD ’14), and Jon Alpern (UR ’07, VCU MD ’11), he devised projects addressing joint pain, dermatology, emergency medicine, community health workers and women’s health.

RGHA is formed

In their planning for spring of 2011, Sean McKenna and Sid Dante were overheard at a meeting of the Medical Legal Partnership of Richmond (MLP-R) by Sean Byrne, JD (UR ’93 UR Law ’97).  Sean Byrne offered his skills and services and was quickly invited on the 2011 trip.  During the 2011 trip, the group initiated many projects and worked in a busy clinic, which was overseen by Dr. Paula Tamashiro, a Peruvian physician who served a year working in and greatly improving the Pampas Grande Health Post. Upon their return, the group sought more long-term, ambitious goals. Shortly after, in the summer of 2011, Richmond Global Health Alliance (RGHA) was founded. 

RGHA quickly sought out official partnerships with student and professional groups in the Richmond area. These included HOMBRE, the global health service learning group at VCU School of Medicine, and University of Richmond T.C. Williams School of Law. Through these connections, RGHA gained new leaders from a breadth of professional backgrounds, including pharmacist/professor Emily Peron, PharmD, and law student Charles Davidson (UR Law ’15). Additionally, keeping true to its roots, RGHA appointed undergraduate student directors, who continue to play a central role in project development and on-campus global health advocacy.   

In 2014, the RGHA Board, made up of this diverse group of leaders, voted to base RGHA's work upon four strategic pillars: Direct Primary Care, Community Health Outreach, Youth Development, and Service Learning & Mentorship