Princeton resident David Silbergeld will set off by bicycle from San Diego to Washington, D.C., Wednesday, March 26, as part of a team of medical students raising funds for global health, sponsored by Ride for World Health, a 501(c)3 organization based in Columbus, Ohio.
A fourth year MD/MPH student at Rutgers/Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, Mr. Silbergeld grew up in Seattle, Washington, before moving as a teen to Princeton, where he graduated from Princeton High School in 2003.
Now 28, he will celebrate his birthday during the ride, on April 10. The cross country bike ride is one of several ways in which Mr. Silbergeld combines his professional expertise with an adventurous spirit. Shortly after he gets back from his cross-country trip, he will start his medical residency in the University of Alaska family medicine program, serving in Anchorage and more remote communities. He’ll be working with under-served Alaskan natives and in rural villages with minimal resources.
The riders expect to reach Washington, D. C. around May 10. In order to make their trip truly bi-coastal, they plan to continue on to Rehoboth Beach in Delaware. All in all, their journey will take some 52 days. That’s 38 days in the saddle with a few days rest in between.
So far, said Mr. Silbergeld, he has raised some $1,500. “Most of the money raised has come from small donations of $10 and $20 from friends and family and even some from fellow students, even though most medical students are carrying quite a bit in student loans,” he said. “But it is still possible to make donations via the Ride for World Health website as the team makes its way across the continent.”
To minimize costs and maximize the amount that will be donated to the organizations supported by the Ride for World Health, the team is paying its own way across the country and staying overnight in accommodations provided by schools, community centers, churches, and medical centers.
A 2007 graduate of Georgetown University, Mr. Silbergeld has a BA in Chinese with a premedical concentration. He has traveled to South Africa with the Peace Corps, where he was involved in a variety of projects, including children’s after-school programs, environmental NGOs, and crime prevention. He has cared for patients suffering from a range of diseases from hypertension and diabetes to HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis. His interest in world health deepened during medical school through public health expeditions to northern India and the Dominican Republic and he plans to enter a residency in Family Medicine and to remain involved in global health throughout his career.
“I view the Ride for World Health as an opportunity to challenge myself, to form lasting relationships with medical students from around the country, and, most importantly, to support an invaluable cause by asking interested people to sponsor my ride,” he said.
The funds raised by this year’s Ride for World Health will provide support for such organizations as HEAL Africa, Empower and Advance, and The Partnership for Ongoing Developmental, Educational, and Medical Outreach Solutions (PODEMOS).
Founded over a decade ago by Congolese surgeon Jo Lusi and his wife Lyn, HEAL Africa sponsors a full-service training hospital in Goma, Congo as well as community-based initiatives in public health, community development, and conflict resolution. It helps to support a Congolese staff of 28 doctors, 54 nurses, more than 340 community development educators, a small administrative team, and hundreds of Congolese volunteers. “Our donation will go primarily towards women’s health including safe childbirth, fistula repair, and HIV and contraception education,” said Mr. Silbergeld.
The organization, Empower and Advance, is dedicated to empowering members of vulnerable communities, and is currently working on a curriculum to train secondary school graduates in Haiti to become Emergency Community Healthcare Workers.
The goal of PODEMOS, a student-founded organization, is to develop international sites for outreach and clinical care where medical and health profession students can be involved in caring for and learning from patients from marginalized populations. It has identified three underserved communities in Honduras, where it is working to develop medical-cultural exchanges.
For more information and to support Mr. Silbergeld’s ride, visit: http://r4wh.org/team-r4wh/david-silbergeld/. The Ride for World Health website will be accepting donations until the riders arrive in Delaware on May 11.