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Elizabeth Nesbit-Spiegel’s path to Rice University began in Malawi.


In 2006, Z, as Elizabeth is known, was a junior in high school in Waterford, Virginia and becoming a doctor was on her radar. On a whim, she and her mother, a physical therapist, emailed a small hospital in Malawi to ask if they could come for the summer to help. Six months later, the reply was: “Yes, come.”


After that summer, Z knew she wanted a college that drew a parallel with her dream and when she discovered the global health technologies program, she knew Rice University was for her.


Now Dr. Nesbit-Spiegel, having completed medical school at the University of California, San Francisco and continuing on as a resident in pediatrics, credits her Rice 360º years with compelling her to contribute to the
creation of a better world.


“The science of medicine is easily learned in the classroom, but the arts of problem solving, critical thinking and teamwork take an irreplaceable experience – such as the global health (BTB) program offers – to learn,” she says.

Both Z and her mother Casey Nesbit, who is an assistant professor teaching physical therapy at The University of The Pacific in Stockton, California, speak of the importance of the professors at Rice. “Dr. Rebecca Richards-Kortum and Dr. Maria Oden have brilliant minds, but it is their hearts that make them phenomenal mentors. They have a gift of understanding the hearts of the people they have chosen to serve and to apply that to the heart of their work and mentorship,” says Z.


“I have had the privilege of watching Rebecca and Maria work with their students in Malawi,” says
Casey. “As professors, they are role models for me, they offer so much energy, such optimism – always encouraging their students to find the positive solution. They have a way of guiding students to solving problems at a very specific level, encouraging them to solve problems that seem insurmountable by breaking tasks into small achievable steps.”


The engagement in Malawi includes other family members as well. Z’s brother Josh Nesbit piloted his company Medic Mobil at St. Gabriel’s Hospital in Namitete, Malawi. Casey returns every summer to teach physical therapy to students in the Malawi capital, Blantyre.


As Z begins her residency, her heart and mind carry the lessons she learned in Malawi and her years at Rice 360º.

Rice 360º global health technologies graduates such as Z are making important changes in health-care delivery.



Contact Liz McGuffee at or (713) 348-4491 to share a story.


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