Applying Engineering Principles to help the world
Rudhram Gajendran, a graduate student pursuing a master’s degree in BioEngineering
, travelled during summer, 2012 to Central America along with twenty-six other participants for a two-month summer training and volunteer program conducted by the non-profit
Engineering World Health, in association with Duke University.
Current statistics indicate that there is a vast amount of medical equipment waiting to be repaired in the hospitals of developing nations like Nicaragua. A lack of original spare parts and insufficient engineering support means hundreds of pieces of such critical medical equipment remain unused. The objective of the Engineering World Health program is to provide engineering support to repair this unusable medical equipment to and get it back into service.
As a part of this summer program, Rudhram spent one month in Costa Rica learning Spanish and receiving intensive training in medical instrumentation while living with a local family, being part of their everyday life, and learning about their culture. During the second month, Rudhram moved to Nicaragua, where the team was divided into groups of two and placed in hospitals around the country to provide repair and maintenance support of the medical equipment. In total, the teams put more than a hundred medical devices back into service. In addition to offering technical support, the students contributed by painting walls, cleaning hospital grounds, building benches for patient seating, and teaching English and basic computer skills. The goal was to participate in the improvement of existing patient care conditions. Working in the Nicaraguan hospital gave Rudhram insight into the challenges that country’s health care system faces and underscored the vast differences in lifestyle and standard of living between the small Central American nation and the U.S.
For Rudhram, working hard, living with local families in harsh living conditions was altogether a new exciting experience. The summer of 2012 was a perfect blend of cultural exposure, technical learning, adventure and travel.