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Engineering World Health College Students Repair Life-Saving Medical Equipment

DURHAM, NC — Engineering World Health (EWH) recently announced statistics on their Summer Institute (SI), a service-abroad program that sends university students from around the world to developing countries to repair life-saving medical equipment. To date, over 400 engineering and science students have worked in over 30 hospitals in Nicaragua, Rwanda and Tanzania, returning over 4,200 pieces of equipment to service, which represents over $8.6 million worth of machines now working to save lives.

“These students are the antidote to any cynicism about their generation: they are engaged, energetic, hard working, creative,” says Leslie Calman, Ph.D., CEO of Engineering World Health. “They want to make a real contribution to saving lives and they do just that: each summer, EWH students put into service over a million dollars’ worth of medical equipment. Because of their work, incubators are fixed and so premature babies live; blood pressure cuffs are mended and so pre-eclampsia is discovered and treated before a pregnant woman dies in childbirth; anesthesia machines are installed, so surgeries can safely occur,” says Dr. Calman.

The SI mission focuses in large part on creating access to medical equipment in developing countries, meeting a call to overcome the global crisis of non-functioning medical equipment. In fact, global health often centers on a call for biomedical technology and tools. However, according to a recent study published in the Journal of Clinical Engineering, approximately 72 percent of hospital equipment in sub-Saharan Africa cannot be used for patient care because it is in disrepair, delaying surgical procedures and other critical treatment.

“The Summer Institute program has taught me what it means to be not only a biomedical engineer, but most of all a global engineer,” says Adedayo O. Jobi-Odeneye, B.S. Biomedical Engineering ’15, The George Washington University, Gates Millennium Scholar and Summer Institute alum. She adds, “My newly gained knowledge and skills are not things you learn in the classroom. I am proud to say that I have troubleshooted and fixed medical equipment and I can speak Spanish proficiently in a professional setting. Participating in this program has been the great culminating experience of my engineering studies and for professional and personal growth.”

Summer Institute students spend two months in country, where one month of training is followed by a month of service in a local hospital, during which pairs of participants install and repair medical equipment, train the staff, take inventory and solve problems. The work conducted through the Summer Institute has been both lifesaving and life affirming for the patients, communities served and the engineering students employed by this program. In addition to improving access to quality care, the program offers participants a life-changing experience and the opportunity to contribute in a meaningful way to international development. For many, it is the beginning of a long-term commitment to helping vulnerable people.

My experience with EWH helped me discover my passions and refine my plans to work in global health,” says Kevin Klembczyk, Summer Institute alum. “Now, I find myself constantly raving to my peers about EWH’s amazing people and people-focused model. The organization prioritizes supporting and nurturing its own members, which ultimately reflects in their collective dedication to building strong relationships with community members abroad — a vital factor in the success of their efforts. Learning from and working with the people of EWH was an enormous privilege.”

The Summer Institute was launched in 2004 through a partnership with Duke University, enabling young engineers the chance to live in developing countries with a local family, learn a new language and use newly acquired technical skills to improve health care in the community. Texas A&M joined the SI program two years ago, sending some of their students to Rwanda, where a focus on design and innovation is carried out in a collaboration of students from the Summer Institute, the BMET Training program in Rwanda (Biomedical Engineering Technicians), and design courses at Texas A&M.

Summer Institute students come from universities around the world, including the United States, Denmark, the United Kingdom, Norway, Germany, India, China, Singapore, Saudi Arabia and Nigeria. Students are supported through scholarships from Duke Engage, Texas A&M, VCU, BD, Covidien, Tensentric, the Noble Foundation, the Roddis Foundation, the Derfner Foundation and an anonymous foundation.

About Engineering World Health
Engineering World Health (EWH) is a nonprofit organization that brings engineering students, professionals and healthcare providers together to collaborate on the development and utilization of bioengineering equipment in the developing world. EWH provides programs, including STEM, Biomedical Engineering Technician training (BMET), University Chapters, Summer Institute and Design Competitions. Learn more at www.ewh.org.

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