Jorge Girotti, PhD, MHA
UMed Founder & Faculty Affiliate
Dr. Girotti served as Associate Dean for Admissions and Special Curricular Programs for the University of Illinois College of Medicine. He developed and launched the Urban Medicine Program in 2005 and directed it until his retirement in spring 2019. He currently serves as Research Assistant Professor in the Department of Medical Education (DME). There, he works closely with the Hispanic Center of Excellence, which aims to promote science and medical careers for Latinx youth, expose undergraduate and medical students to biomedical and clinical research, and increase the representation of Latino faculty in the medical school. Dr. Girotti’s research interests reflect his focus on the development of opportunities for students in minority and disadvantaged populations. The design, implementation and evaluation of educational programs to improve cultural competence among physicians and other health professionals, and programs to improve leadership skills in future physicians are his current priorities. Dr. Girotti’s research and training work has been funded by Federal agencies, foundations, and UIC. Dr. Girotti earned a master’s degree in Healthcare Administration from the University of Illinois at Chicago; a Ph.D. in Public Policy Analysis, Educational Administration from UIC; an MA in Counseling and Guidance from Northeastern Illinois University, and the BFA in Art Education from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.
Joanna Michel, PhD
Joanna Michel, PhD has been with UMed since 2008 and is responsible for creating the community engagement component of the curriculum. She is a medical ethnobotanist with training in public health and medicinal chemistry. She has written numerous articles and book chapters on the role of culture and plants in community-based medical practices in the US and Latin America (Guatemala, Colombia). Her current research looks at the application of ethnobotanical and public health theories and practices to urban agriculture and explores how cultural practices around food and traditional medicine adapt and change over time and place. Community based-participatory practices are at the center of all of her work and are rooted in her belief that underrepresented populations need to be at the table. Dr. Michel graduated cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa from Tulane University (1994), received her PhD in Medical Chemistry and Pharmacognosy from the University of Illinois College of Pharmacy (2006) and completed a CDC Postdoctoral Fellowship in Public Health at the University of Illinois at Chicago School of Public Health (2008). She is also certified in Herbalism, Permaculture, and Ecological Horticulture.
Nikki Waltrich, MPH
UMed Program Coordinator
Nikki (she/her) earned her MPH from UIC’s School of Public Health, Community Health Sciences Division in 2019 and is a former trainee of UIC’s Center of Excellence in Maternal and Child Health. Her major academic and advocacy interests include trauma-informed systems development, addressing barriers to accessing mental health services, and holistic wellness interventions that promote healing and resiliency. She roots her work in social justice, leveraging community assets, and interdisciplinary collaboration. She has served on the executive board for UIC’s Planned Parenthood Generation Action group, and is a current member of the Reproductive Health and Access (RHA) Coalition, and believes strongly in reproductive justice and anti-racist practices. She is a registered yoga teacher and volunteers with YogaCare, a Chicago-based non-profit organization that brings yoga to under-resourced communities to promote health.