A note from one of the founders of EWH @ UCI, Arlene Doria:
“FOUNDING OF OUR CHAPTER
Engineering World Health at UCI is an interdisciplinary campus organization that originated from the biomedical engineering department with several graduate students including Maulik Patel, Meghan Cozzens, Mindy Simon, Moe Winkler, and myself. Every day, we meet amazing people from the UCI community and what we intend to do is leverage the skills, the minds, and the hearts of these incredibly talented people such that we facilitate both innovation and action in improving the medical status of those that are unfortunately living in conditions that are nothing short of abject poverty. In developing nations, medical infrastructure is fragile, ineffective, and often nonexistent.
And I know and have seen this first hand. I was raised in 3 different developing countries in 3 different continents, but not in poverty per say. My father was a mining engineer from the Philippines who took opportunities abroad to move his family closer to and eventually to live in the United States, a dream of many. I was born in Zambia – a country with one of the higher morbidity and mortality rates from HIV and AIDS. I was raised in the mountains of Honduras in a remote mining community that necessitated a 2 hour drive on a mostly unpaved road to the nearest major city. I have also lived in the Philippines in a house with no running water. I remember complaining as a child about showering with a bucket of water only to be reminded that we are lucky that we even had a house! See, my parents literally grew up dirt poor. Imagine 13 family members in a dilapidated shack and sleeping on the floor liked packed sardines, sharing communal restrooms with people living in similar conditions. Dirt poor. Now imagine how poor sanitation in those communities can easily accelerate the spread of disease.
I am lucky. Now that I live in the United States after being exposed to that disparity between the developed and the developing world, I am quite humbled. My past has instilled in me the notion of sincere gratitude. That I don’t have to be a millionaire to have “made it”. I don’t even have to make six digits. That living here with a roof over my head and knowing that there are resources within a phone call away if you are sick or critically injured, and knowing that your family is safe…that is gold. A majority of people around the world cannot say the same. So when Maulik approached me about starting this chapter, it took no time for me to say “I’m in!”
EWH CORE ACTIVITY –PRODUCT DEVELOPMENT
According to our international organization Engineering World Health, “Typically 50 percent of medical equipment in developing countries is out of service and as much as 70 percent of donated medical equipment does not work.” We want to address these issues through our main focus of this UCI chapter: product design and development. Here we face a unique challenge of developing innovative medical technologies with one caveat…the device has to be a fraction of the cost of its “developed world equivalent” but still function reliably . We take sophisticated equipment found in US hospitals, clinics, homecare and try to engineer low cost solutions for them in almost a MacGyver type of way. We strive to advance these projects with the expectation that in the future we will develop an affordable medical solution that can be distributed to these vulnerable communities.
Our vision is that we will continually hold a competitive annual conference that invites all the UCI community to come up with transformative health care solutions for resource poor settings. We will help exceptional teams apply to national conferences and design competitions to get the word out. The underlying idea of making it competitive is that if you keep pushing the frontier of lower cost without sacrificing the quality of the medical technology, any successful product that is made for the developing world also has a good chance of being appropriate in the developed world. Because unfortunately, vulnerable communities also exist right here in the United States. And let’s face it, healthcare costs due to expensive medical equipment is getting out of hand.
PARTNERSHIPS AND COLLABORATIONS
We also balance our activities between immediate need and long term research & development goals. We are promoting acts of service by partnering with local clubs and state organizations. EWH at UCI understands that global health is intimately tied with the access to clean water. More lives are lost from the lack of water and lack of water sanitation methods than from weapons. Hence, we also spread awareness about the needs of clean water.
VALUE TO OUR MEMBERS
We provide our members with valuable experience in a variety of fields. Through product development we expose students to useful software applications; we emphasize the need for designing for manufacturability and compliance to government regulations. We have them do market research to analyze demographics about the end user of the products. Even knowledge on communications, graphic design, advertising is important. You can have the greatest idea but if no one knows about it, how is it going to move forward? I believe our chapter to be like a biotech or medical device company, where you don’t just have engineers, but you have a comprehensive team of passionate volunteers (employees) that will help you deliver a quality product to the end user. We want to give our students these experiences and values of service that will be relevant to their careers in any discipline.
To achieve this goal requires tremendous motivation. I mean, why would anyone want to volunteer their time to do something that sounds much like “work”. And this goes back to why earlier I shared with you my personal story. It’s because all our members have their own personal stories of what drives them to participate. Students work on challenging projects even when we tell them ‘oh and by the way we have limited funds for each project’. It’s utmost passion and belief that we can contribute our skills to building something amazing as a team. On a side note, limited funding ends up being a blessing in that right off the back students are already thinking about low costs materials and methods to develop a medical product. In summary, I hope I have given you a clear picture of what we do in EWH at UCI. I also hope you decide to get involved. Whether you take a hands on approach by volunteering one hour a week to 20 hours a week to participate in one activity or all of the activities or whether you take a hands off approach such as providing guidance and advice, or lending us resources, perhaps a modest donation, we invite everyone from any discipline to get involved in this organization. At the very least, we are always grateful and supportive to anyone who puts effort in improving global health. Thank you!”