Pursuing a career in Global Health?...

...then you might like to read our Q&A with Zack:

Zack is a biomedical engineering student who has just returned from an Engineering World Health trip to fix medical equipment in Nicaragua.

  • What drew you to Nicaragua?

I love Central America, I have done a lot of traveling in that part of the world and have wanted to visit Nicaragua for a long time.

It is a perfect balance of interesting culture, natural beauty and traveling atmosphere without being 'touristy' or overly expensive.

The program in particular interested me because I saw a way to combine my passions for traveling and biomedical engineering.

 

  • What was the purpose of your trip and what accomplishments occurred?

I went on the trip with the intention of completing some of my Industry training and doing work that would improve medical infrastructure.

We had to build a reputation from scratch in order to gain the trust and respect of the people we worked with.

By the end of my time in Somoto:

  • I worked on 42 pieces of equipment
  • repaired 31 of these and  returning them to service
  • I left Nicaragua feeling like I had made a meaningful impact and a difference in the lives of patients and doctors in these communities.

And the bonus was that my time in Nicaragua I was approved for 45 days of industrial training!

 

  • What was the learning that you took away from your time there?

The conditions in developing countries are far less than ideal for complex electrical equipment, so Iearnt a great deal about the electrical side of things.

As an  engineer with a mechanical and biomedical background I learnt a lot about circuits and electrical physics which is an area that i needed to improve in.

The method of troubleshooting that needed to be used when diagnosing the problems with the medical devices was new to me and in no way intuitive so learning that thinking process was very valuable.

It is something that I hope to apply to work that I do in different developing countries in the future.

I also learned Spanish up to a level where I was able to communicate with people and have simple conversations. Spanish is a language which I have been interested in for a long time so this was very rewarding. 

 

  • What was the ultimate highlight of your trip?

The atmosphere created by the collection of such intelligent and motivated students was something that was incredible to be immersed in.

Everyone who participated in the program was exceptional in some way and it was an environment designed to encourage hard work and creative thinking.

I have never been more inspired than I have been by the people that I met in this program and that was a clear highlight. 

 

  • What are your hopes and dreams for your career now?

A successful career in global health!

This experience has showed me the good that can be done from devoting just a small amount of time to working in a developing nation and from that I believe that devoting a career to this cause would be incredibly rewarding. 

 

  •  Any tips for young biomedical engineering students thinking about doing something similar?

The main tip that I would give to biomed students looking to do something similar is to plan ahead.

These programs take a lot of planning and a lot of time to organise.

So if someone is looking to do something like this start talking to organisations early to give yourself plenty of time to fit it in because things will fall through.

It was over two years from the time I first made contact with EWH to the time I participated in the summer institute, it took a lot of time and energy to organise but i am so grateful to have had the experience.

I am sure I will look back on the program as one of the highlights of my time at university. People also have to be aware that no matter how much you think about an experience it is never going to be quite what you expect. You need to go into an experience like this with a positive attitude and an open mind; if you do that you might have one of the best experiences of your life. 

If you're interested in participating in one of the Engineering World Health Summer Institutes, check out their website here (link: http://www.ewh.org/students/summer-institute/program). They have programs in several different countries, including Nicaragua, Tanzania, and Rwanda.