Reni Lira is visiting the United States from Brazil as one of the U.S. State Department’s Young Leaders of the Americas Initiative (YLAI) Fellows. 

If I would have told 10-year-old Reni about visiting the United States and representing Brazil as one of this year’s Young Leaders of the Americas Initiative Fellows, she would never have believed me. Having been born in small city and from a poor family in Brazil, it would have been unthinkable.

As a YLAI Fellow, I’ve joined a group of dozens of amazing emerging professionals from Latin America, Canada, and the Caribbean for cultural exchanges and professional development opportunities. During my time in Minnesota, I am working at the Carlson School of Management in the Medical Valuation Laboratory. I have also been invited by two doctors from the prestigious Mayo Clinic to participate in daily rounds, visit patients, observe consultations, and attend a conference as a medical student visitor. This has been a life changing opportunity for me.

Currently, I’m in my 4th year as a medical student at Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro in Rio de Janeiro. I am pursuing a lifelong dream of becoming a medical student while also working towards a strong passion of mine: entrepreneurship. Besides being a medical student, I also work at the largest healthcare company in Brazil where I focus on hospital innovation and analyzing health tech startups. When I first entered medical school, I saw too little emphasis on learning and practical experiences regarding management, communication, leadership, and entrepreneurship. So, I decided to found my own company called Med.Co Jr., where we provide consulting for businesses and entrepreneurs in the healthcare industry. All of our members are volunteers and medical students. At the same we support the medical sector, we also help advance the education of future MDs through this program. Now, I want to give back to my community by combining my two passions (medicine and business) to impact as many lives as I can.

My next opportunity is equally as exciting. From September to November I will attend Harvard and Stanford to complete a surgery rotation. There is no doubt in my mind that participating in the YLAI network and the connections I’ve gained from this program have contributed to this achievement.

In my spare time, I love nature, music, and sports. I have been able to take in so many of the wonderful sights and sounds that Minnesota has to offer. From a Twins game, to the Global Minnesota Gala, to kayaking on the lakes, to meeting so many amazing people, I can say my time in Minnesota has been educational and inspiring. I love to travel and have lived in Bolivia, Brazil, France, and Germany. But my time in Minneapolis was different from anything I have ever experienced before. As I look to continue my studies and bring what I’ve learned back home to Brazil, I’ll always remember my time in Minnesota with a fondness for the warmth and generosity of its people.

I love to stay connected to people. You can always reach out to me on Instagram @renigambini or

The YLAI Fellowship is a U.S. Department of State program with funding provided by the U.S. government and administered by IREX. Global Minnesota is proud to implement this program in partnership with IREX.