A Synapse
				 group at a recent social event

Students building supportive communities for individuals with brain injury

About Synapse

Synapse empowers students to work together to improve the lives of those living with brain injury by supporting chapters at universities across the nation. Our national team provides training sessions and written resources to educate chapter leaders about brain injury, creating effective support groups, and building community partnerships. Our advisors are available to help students overcome obstacles and answer questions as they arise.

Our approach provides students with an opportunity to positively impact their communities through service and fosters their development as leaders. During their time in Synapse, students will connect with other chapters to share their experiences and advice. These students form a network of future physicians, scientists, and policy makers who are passionate about improving care for brain injury.

Student chapters primarily do three things:

  • Organize events to provide individuals with brain injury with opportunities to connect with and support one another
  • Foster relationships between students and individuals with brain injury through a structured buddy program
  • Plan lectures by physicians and researchers on the latest advances in the field


Synapse’s mission is to empower undergraduates to become leaders in their communities by collaborating with physicians and community partners to serve individuals with brain injury.

The mission of Synapse is threefold:

  • To provide individuals with brain injury with opportunities to connect with and learn from one another and improve their access to resources.

  • To provide students with the opportunity to serve as leaders in their communities and to learn about the patient perspective of living with a brain injury.

  • To build a network of leaders in medicine, science, policy and education committed to improving care for brain injury.

Our Team

Alissa Totman

Alissa Totman

Alissa Totman is an MD/MPH candidate at the Stanford School of Medicine and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. She established Synapse in 2016 to provide undergraduates with leadership opportunities expanding social support for individuals with brain injury across the US. She has been working with the brain injury community for over 6 years, and this work has played a major role in her decision to pursue a career in neuro-rehabilitation. After completing her MD/MPH she plans to pursue residency training in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation and to further specialize in Traumatic Brain Injury.

Michael Zhu Chen

Michael Zhu Chen

Michael is an undergraduate at Stanford who loves working at the intersection of neuroscience, medicine, and public service. Having suffered a minor brain injury himself as a child, Michael became involved in Synapse to support individuals with brain injury and raise public awareness about brain injury. Michael’s involvement with Stanford Synapse has shown him the value of empowering students to become leaders in their communities in pursuit of a common goal, which is precisely the mission of Synapse National. Michael is excited to extend the model of the student-run support group to create a network of brain injury support groups at colleges across the country. After graduation, Michael plans to research and treat disorders of the brain as a physician scientist.

Julie Kim

Julie Kim

Julie Kim is an undergraduate at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology studying Biological Engineering. She is currently president of BrainTrust, MIT’s chapter of Synapse. Julie decided to get involved with BrainTrust at the start of her freshman year after hearing an individual with brain injury talk about how influential and supportive BrainTrust has been to her. BrainTrust has been extremely eye-opening and formative for Julie, and has encouraged her to pursue medical school after graduating from MIT. She is excited to see Synapse grow nationally and serve many more communities.

Jennifer Lee

Jennifer Lee

Jennifer Lee is an undergraduate at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology studying Computer Science and Molecular Biology. She is currently Vice President of Outreach for BrainTrust, MIT’s Synapse chapter. Upon graduation, Jennifer plans to participate in MIT’s fifth-year Masters of Engineering program and then to attend medical school. Being part of BrainTrust has sparked Jennifer’s interest in how to best harness technology to improve quality of life for both patients and individuals with disabilities. She is very excited to help expand the Synapse community!

Claire Woodrow

Claire Woodrow

Claire Woodrow is a Stanford undergraduate student pursuing a degree in Human Biology with a concentration in Neuroscience. After being introduced to patients suffering from brain trauma during high school, her desire to continue to serve the brain injury community led her to join Stanford Synapse as a freshman. Claire is inspired by the meaningful friendships Synapse helps to facilitate between individuals with brain injury and undergraduate students, and she is excited to see the support network expand nationally. In the future, Claire plans to continue studying the brain and hopefully become a physician.

Alexis Ball

Alexis Ball

Alexis Ball is an MD/MPP candidate at the Harvard Medical School and Harvard John F Kennedy School of Government. She joined the leadership of Synapse in 2016. She has experience with the brain injury community both through her work advocating for concussion awareness but also personally due to a father with a traumatic brain injury. Alexis plans on pursuing a career in pediatrics and looks to incorporate brain injury advocacy throughout her career.

Active Chapters


Oregon State University

Stanford University


University of Pennsylvania

University of Washington

Join Us

Interested in getting involved? Apply to found a chapter at your school.

The role of a chapter founder is to lay the foundation for a strong, student-led organization on your campus that can have a meaningful long-term impact on the local community. Founding a chapter gives students the opportunity to:

  • Become an advocate for individuals with brain injury
  • Form a network of friends and mentors
  • Have a lasting impact on their school and community

The deadline for the 2017-18 application cycle has passed.

If you are interested in applying next for year, please check back next fall. In the meantime, feel free to read our Chapter Founder Applicant Guidelines and reach out to synapsenational@gmail.com with any questions.