Joenard's Duke-EWH Summer Institute

Summary of my 4 Weeks in Nicaragua (Weeks 5 – 9)

July 30th, 2012 | Mid-Trip, Nicaragua | 3 comments   

Sorry for not posting for a long time. Here is what I was busy doing my last weeks in Central America…

Fixing Medical Equipment

For me, the learning curve was pretty steep in the first weeks working in the hospital. I got so used to the lifestyle in Costa Rica that I didn’t anticipate having to adjust in Nicaragua. But, after a week, I was able to get into the swing of things and get down to what I came there for: fixing medical equipment.

The first piece of medical equipment really threw us into the deep end of the pool: it was an infant incubator that had a low battery alarm. We spent the entire first week taking the incubator a part (not an easy task as there were many screws and small bits that we had to take track of) trying to look for the source of these problems. What made it harder was that they didn’t have the manual for it (which was the case with many of the machines we tried to fix). We first tried to replace the 9 Volt battery in the front panel, which didn’t stop the low battery alarm from going off. We then tried charging the main system lead-battery with a makeshift AC/DC converter (shown below). That took away the low battery alarm, but brought up a system error alarm. So, we looked at all the circuitry starting from the plug on. We looked at the fuses and the plug socket to see if they were in tact, which they were. So, the next thing downstream from this was a metal box enclosing a fan with its control circuitry and connectors from the power supply. We took it out and we found that the thermistor that shut off the entire system when it started to overheat was broken. We took it out and spent the next week talking to technicians trying to figure out what type of part it was and who we could call to order a replacement part. When all was said and done, we found out it was from GE and Alex was able to contact the president to mail us the part for free. Unfortunately, it reached Managua the last day of work and we weren’t able to install it and see if we could put it back into service.

Out of the 24 pieces of equipment that we looked at, we were able to put back 83% of them (20 out of 24) back into service. The average for the program is 70%. Although this is really a rough estimate of value, servicing these 20 pieces of equipment saved the hospital $23,089 that they could spend on complete replacements of these same machines. Most of these machines were fixed by cleaning out various components or soldering connections that were loose after wear and tear.

Breakdown of equipment we looked at:

Equipment Number
Aspirators* 6
Blood Pressure Machines 1
Centrifuges 2
Electrosurgery Units 1
Dopplers 1
Glucometers 1
Incubators 1
Lights 2
Other 2
Otoscopes 2
Pulse Oximeters 1
Wheelchairs 2
X-Ray Developers 1

*includes nebulizers

First fix – infant incubator


Apparatus to charge batteries.


Broken thermistor from the incubator.


Otoscope that wouldn’t light because there was too much earwax in the earpiece.


Centrifuge with re-soldered connections (in red).


Doppler probe with frayed connections.


Alex testing the doppler probe. (It doesn’t work on him, but it does work on everyone else!)


Antique cauterization machine. It didn’t go back to service. Our host dad wants it put in a museum in the hospital.


The bovie gun of the cauterization machine. It is the part that the doctor uses to cauterize wounds. We opened it up and we sanded out the corroded bits and now it works!


Alex on a makeshift wheelchair that was made/used before we came. We fixed the misaligned wheel.


Me opening up a pulse oximeter to test the electronics inside.


The only portable otoscope in the hospital.


Me testing the blood pressure machine we fixed.


Suction machine that we fixed for the pediatric ward.


Secondary Project – Alcohol Gel Stations

Right after he picked us up from the airport, our host dad, Osvaldo, started talking to my partner, Alex, and me about a “crazy idea” of his for our secondary project. The hospital that we were going to work in (and the one that Osvaldo works in as head of Epidemology among other titles) had soap that was too corrosive for standard soap dispenser valves. This made hand sanitation less accessible in hospitals. So, he asked us to design a valve that was made of a material that can withstand these soaps.

We were working on this for a couple of weeks until Osvaldo came back from a conference in Managua. He was informed that the government was recently interested in promoting the use of alcohol gel for hand sanitation. This changed our design criteria a bit. We needed to devise a way to mount an alcohol gel bottle (which was government supplied bottle) to the wall. We also needed a way to secure the bottle from thieves, but still allow people to get enough alcohol gel to sanitize their hands. This was all directed towards the same goal as the first project of increasing the accessibility of hand sanitation in the hospital.

In our brainstorming sessions, Alex thought of using a water bottle holder that is usually mounted on bikes to support the upside-down alcohol gel bottles and I thought of supporting the bottles using a mesh. However, the design truly came to fruition when Alex went out to the market and shops to see what materials we could use. The bike holders were too awkward to use and the mesh was nowhere to be found. But, he did find a PVC tube holder that fit perfect on the bottle and could be mounted. To support the top, we used some thick wire from the workshop to create a ring, which would support the inverted top of the bottle. The holder and the ring were connected by string. We then used more wire to tighten the holder and another wire to add more of a sense of security. We also replaced the sports cap that was originally distributed with the bottle with a soda bottle cap with a hole small enough to impede flow when not under pressure but large enough to dispense an adequate amount of alcohol gel.

After we assembled this and made sure it held up during use, we drafted a poster (in Spanish) to remind the staff how sanitizing hands can prevent cross-infection and how to properly sanitize hands. We printed out colored copies of these posters, laminated them, and then stapled them to 40 by 35 cm pieces of plywood. After we mounted the bottle holder onto the board, the station is complete! On our last day of work, we placed the stations in the cafeteria, next to the clock where people check out at the end of every shift, and in the emergency room. Right after we nailed them to the walls, we got a few curious people who tried the station out. A lot of the assembly of the station couldn’t have been accomplished without the help of our friends in the carpentry workshop!

The poster was just one part of the awareness campaign. The second part was to create a message that would play periodically through the PA system of the hospital. The only problem was that the PA system only had a microphone. So, we soldered a stereo plug and a mini-jack plug to two ends of a wire and used a CD player to play a message reminding people of the alcohol-gel stations. In order to get the CD player to run continuously, I had to look for 3 hours all over the markets of Masaya —a town 30 minutes north from our home-stay— for a power adaptor for it.


Alcohol gel bottle that the government supplies Nicaraguan hospitals.


The Alco-Gel station.


Closeup of the soda cap with the hole that attaches to the bottom of the alcohol gel bottle; the modified “valve.”

Here’s a Prezi presentation showing the various aspects of the awareness poster we made.



We put the first Alco-Gel Station next to the machine that all the employees use to sign in and out.


We also put a station in the emergency room.


We put the third Alco-Gel Station in the cafeteria.


The stereo to mini-jack cord we had to make for the sound system to periodically play a recorded announcement from a CD player.


The hospital sound system with the CD player/cords.


Front page of the assembly manual we wrote up.


Happy with sanitized hands!


Getting to Know Nicaraguan Culture

Right from when he picked us up from the airport, I knew that my host dad, Dr. Mercado, was well known within where we were going to stay and work in Nicaragua. Whenever we would travel with him, it was inevitable that he would meet one of the many people that he has made friends with over his life. I perceived him as a legend of sorts. This is a result of not only his interesting life (that I don’t feel comfortable sharing on a public forum such as this) but his knack of going out of his way to make everyone around him feel as comfortable as possible by being as genuine and friendly as possible.

More or less, I felt that there was definitely a higher threshold of genuineness and friendliness among Nicaraguans as opposed to people in New York City. These two qualities complemented each other: they were interested in your life and, in turn, they would divulge in you everything, vulnerabilities and all. This isn’t just a phenomenon that I’ve seen based off the encounters that I’ve had in the situations where the native residents were just being nice to the “tourist.” But, I’ve seen this between other native Nicaraguans as well. I’ve engaged in this first-hand when I was mistaken for a native Nicaraguan for the first time (when I have sunglasses on, I can even convince myself that I am) when a group of us went on a weekend excursion to Ometepe. We were trying to find a guide to lead us one of the volcanoes and we asked this convenience shop worker where we could find one. All the time he thought I knew the most Spanish and just talked to me. He treated me with the same friendliness that other Nicaraguans treated “tourists.” Consistently, I experienced this happen when other Nicaraguans took the impression that I was a native Nicaraguan.

I discussed this aspect of Nicaraguan people with a Canadian expatriate I met in a restaurant in Jinotepe who lived in Nicaragua for the past 17 months trying to start his own programming business. He felt that the friendliness was all a ploy to get something from tourists. He also felt that they were backwards as a people. He had a bad experience with a doctor at the Hospital Jinotepe who treated a friend of a friend who fell off a ladder. He then went on about his other observations of Nicaraguan people that helped form his cynical viewpoint. I thought it was refreshing to hear his cynical viewpoint because, up to that point, I felt like I was wearing rose-colored glasses and I was missing certain aspects of Nicaraguan culture. For example, there is a lower threshold of what is considered inappropriate. There were a handful of times I have walked down the street where Nicaraguans have seen me and called out to me “Chinito.” which means little Chinese man. In addition to that, the media was quite keen to show all the gory details of car accidents and crime scenes. My lack of understanding of this aspect spurs my desire to come back to Nicaragua. I would like to get even more immersed in the culture so that I can get close as I can to truly knowing the culture of Nicaragua.


The Nicaraguan bus as bold and beautiful as the people that occupy it. We used these types of buses to go to work every day and travel on the weekends.


The central park in Jinotepe. Every building was painted like the walls of this park; in bold, bright colors.


Spanish style buildings in Granada (the second biggest city in Nicaragua, which was an hour away from Jinotepe). Again, they are painted in bold, bright colors.


One of the national dishes of Nicaragua – Nacatamal.


Meringue band playing on the streets of Jinotepe.


Festival of the Saint Santiago, the patron saint of Jinotepe.


Me and my host family in Nicaragua.



On July 28th, Alex and I said our farewells to the host family and left on the back of a pickup truck with our luggage to a very intimate but upscale hotel in Managua. We checked into our rooms and caught up with the other 24 members in our program. The conference was kind of set-up for that in many respects. First, the C.E.O. of Engineering World Health, Melissa Beard, said some opening remarks and then student presentations began. Most of these presentations were about the different fixes that each group did over the past month at their hospitals. The remainder focused on the culture exchange and language of the program. I enjoyed the presentations from the Diriamba and Masaya groups the most. The Diriamba group presented a survival guide for future groups, which had all beginning Spanish speakers. The Masaya group came up with a version of an iPhone game where we had to guess the logo of companies that were ubiquitous in Costa Rica and Nicaragua and they distributed candy to the group that had the most correct answers. Overall, there were a lot of laughs and a lot of insight into the experiences of the other groups. The next day, we all left for our respective flights home.

Here’s the presentation Alex and I presented on our secondary project:


Fun Stuff

1st Weekend – Ometepe (Largest Island in Lake Nicaragua with two volcanos!)

2nd Weekend – Granada

3rd Weekend – La Isla de Braisilles

4th Weekend – San Juan Del Sur, Lagoon de Apoyo, and Leon for Volcano Boarding down Cerro Negro

Week 4

July 9th, 2012 | Costa Rica, Mid-Trip, Nicaragua | Comments Off on Week 4   

Spanish Class

We’ve wrapped up all the grammar topics in the textbook (200+ pages over a whole month — so much work!) at the beginning of the week. The remainder of the week, the rest of the classmates gave their presentations on the centrifuge (la centrifuga), anesthesia machine (la maquina de anesthesia), electrosurgery unit ( la maquina de electrocirugia), blood pressure cuff (la manguito de presión arterial), and oxygen concentrator (la concentrador de oxígeno).

For hour blocks of each day, we played this game where we were dealt cards by the professor with unconjugated verbs and we went around saying sentences incorporating that verb conjugated to a specific tense and specific subject (1st, 2nd, or 3rd person). We had to do this for three verbs at one point! With the remainder of the time, we chatted about temas libres (free topics). On the last day of class, we went as a class to the Museo Nacional in San Jose.

Even though I feel like I know a lot of Spanish grammar, I still feel unprepared to hold decent conversations with the people I will meet in Nicaragua. The conversational stuff I did in the spanish class I had here in Costa Rica helped a lot with this. But, I wish I was more pro-active in talking in spanish with people outside of class, especially with my homestay family. But, at least I am aware of this now, and I hope to be more social in Nicaragua.

Visit to Hospital de los Ninos en San Jose

This was our last hospital visit. This hospital is the only Children´s hospitals in Costa Rica. It is very well off. They proudly showed us their CAT scanner donated by GE last year among the other very advanced equipment they have. After that, they showed us their maintenence room whose roof had numerous female plug sockets to power up and test their equipment. They finished the tour by showing us the part of the x-ray that emits the rays using silver. It was a short but very informative visit overall. Unfortunately, we werent allowed to take pictures inside.

Outside of the Hospital Nacional de Los Ninos in San Jose.


Group picture outside the Hospital Nacional de Los Ninos.

(Possibly) Last of Our Fun Stuff in Costa Rica

On Friday, our entire group went around the Mercado Central for a bit since it’s only open on weekdays. Then, my roommate, Friz, and I did a day trip on Saturday with 8 other people from our program to Jaco. He learned how to surf. On Sunday, we just stayed in San Jose.

My other roommate, Alex, went to Cahuita on the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica with the other half who didn’t go to Jaco.

Farewells – off to Nicaragua

Today is my last week in Costa Rica. I will be flying out with the rest of my group for Nicaragua within the coming week. I came into Costa Rica seeing a lot of similarities to Filipino culture. But, it was only until recently that I started to connect to the similarities that I saw and probed at them further. I feel like I am leaving too soon because of that. But, then again, I could have tried to assimilate with the culture more.

Anyways, to give a proper farewell to our Tico (Costa Rican) family, we noticed that they had pastries, fruit, and coffee in place of dinner. So, the day we left, we bought some pastries and fruit from the local supermarket for them. In turn, they gave us each a bag of really good Costa Rican coffee and a bottle of some chilli sauce that we really liked to put on our food during dinner. The family prepared us a great feast and then bid us goodbyeç.

The morning we left for the place was really hectic but went smoothly nonetheless. We woke up really early to go to the language school and then proceeded to the airport. We then left in what basically was a private plane (since the entire Duke-EWH group was the were the only ones in the plane). We reached managua and then Alex and I found our new host dad right after we got out of luggage claim. More about them in my week 5 update.

Me and My Tico Family!

Week 2 & 3

June 20th, 2012 | Costa Rica, Mid-Trip | Comments Off on Week 2 & 3   

Spanish Class

Week 2:

We were given a textbook made especially for the school and we’ve been flying through a lot of grammar topics in it. Specifically, we’ve gone through nine verb tenses (2 of which were new to me) and other useful topics such as prepositions and the various uses of estar, ser, haber, tener, and hacer. I feel like the most useful topics I’ve learned so far are the imperative tense and the condicional tenses because they allow you to make instructions and talk about hypotheticals. I utilized these concepts a lot when I had to make my presentation of a fluid pump (la bomba de fluido in Spanish) on Monday.

Week 3:

The professor switched up the routine of the class and we’re focusing more on conversation as opposed to grammar exercises. He asked us the definition of lists of verbs (answered in Spanish) that we will probably use a lot in Nicaragua and the conjugation in the simple preterite, present, and future tenses.  After that, he individually asked us questions that we have to respond with the correct tense. We then went over more grammar topics and then we do the device presentation to end the class. The pace definitely went up since the first week and it’s getting pretty hard doing this for 4 hours each day. But, I’m learning a lot and it will pay off so much in a week’s time in Nicaragua.

Instrumentation Class


Me sitting in an instrumentation lecture on infant incubators.

Week 2 & 3:

We went through 14 different devices within the last two weeks. We finished all the devices found in the OR, ICU, and ER and we have moved on to equipment found in the clinical laboratory. The quizzes we have to do at the beginning of each class have been fairly straight forward. The most interesting device we’ve gone through so far is the electrosurgery machine which our instructor, Ron, demonstrated in class by carving into a bar of soap.


Variable power supply converter we built for a lab.

For the first few labs, we went through Ohm’s law, made a simple LED flashlight, made a variable power supply converter (converts AC voltage to DC voltage), and made an incubator temperature alarm.

After these sort of hands-on labs, we transitioned into more conceptual/discussion labs. The first of these labs included an introduction to troubleshooting and exercises involving how to approach the first days of working at the hospital. I feel like this allowed  me and my partner Alex to synchronize mindsets and know how to start our work in Nicaragua.

Visit to El Hospital de San Francisco Assisi in Grecia

Starting last Friday, we split everyone in the program into two groups to visit two hospitals and take a tour of their equipment. I was in the group that visited La Hospital de San Francisco in the municipality of Grecia about 2 hours north from San Jose. It was a medium-sized hospital that seemed well maintained. Also, the connecting corridors were open and flanked by lots of greenery, a big contrast to the enclosed, white, sterile hospitals in the States. It held about 118 beds.

We were shown around by a government engineer named Susanna and an in-house engineer named Carlos. They first debriefed us about the hospital, telling us about the points I mentioned above. They also talked about the healthcare system in Costa Rica and how it’s heavily subsidized by the government. Emergency services are free even to those who have no money to afford it.

In order, they showed us around the maternity ward, men’s ward, the radiological examination rooms, the gastroenterology center, emergency rooms and clinical labs. Overall, they had a mixture of old and new equipment. In the maternity ward, the doctor that told us that their one really old ultrasound had a higher sensitivity than their other new ones. In the radiological examination rooms, Carlos boasted how their state-of-the art X-ray machine was donated by GE a year ago and was a gem of the hospital.

After the tour, Susanna and Carlos gave us an opportunity to work on four pulse-oximeters, two infant warmer lamps, and an incubator in Carlos’s workshop.

Broken pulse oximeter machine in Grecia.

Me cleaning the covers of an infant incubators.


The control circuit of the incubator.

The staff in this hospital were quite keen to let us work on their equipment. It’s just that there wasn’t really much to repair. The pulse-oximeters just needed a change of batteries, the incubator needed to be cleaned and needed some preventative maintenance, and the theater lights just needed some minor maintenance. I doubt the work would be this easy across all the hospitals in Nicaragua because they were a quite big and well-stocked hospital.

Visit to Hospital William Allen Turrialba

The next Friday we went to another hospital the same distance away from San Jose but in the opposite direction in Turrialba. When we arrived, we were split up into two groups. One group got a tour of the hospital while the other group worked on some broken aspirators they had in their workshop. The tour was very informative and Alex (my partner for Nicaragua) and I fixed the aspirator we were working on, which had a broken tube connected to the motor which created the suction.

Outside of Hospital William Allen Turrialba

Broken tube that we scraped the glue off of and sanded the broken ends of.

Inside of the aspirator.

The hole where the broken tube entered the chassis of the motor.

The tube after we reconnected it and inserted it back in the chassis.

The tray in the bottom of the aspirator that needed a new holder for the collection jar.


Final repaired aspirator.

Fun Stuff

The second weekend we went to the Volcan Arenal en La Fortuna. We climbed up a trail called Cerro Chato and went to a resort that had pools of hot water powered by the hot springs. We also had a tour throughout the area.

The third weekend we went to Manuel Antonio and enjoyed the beach and the forrest.

Week 1

June 6th, 2012 | Costa Rica, Mid-Trip | Comments Off on Week 1   

Settling into the Homestay

I arrived in Costa Rica on Tuesday and I got settled into my homestay with my new roommates Alex and Friz. We really enjoy our homestay. Our homestay family has been really helpful to us and has feed us really good Costa Rican food.

Spanish Class

On weekdays of my stay in Costa Rica, I will be taking a Spanish class in the morning and an instrumentation lecture/lab in the afternoon at a school in San Pedro connected with EWH. I was originally placed in the “advanced” level Spanish class. In the first class, the professora expected us to be familiar with most of the indicativo and substantivo tenses (both regular and irregular) as a prerequisite. She then asked if any of us wanted to opt for the “intermediate” level class. I left with 4 other people to the other class which was in another classroom. After the fact, I felt that this was the right choice because I am still rusty with a lot of the intermediate Spanish grammar topics that I took in high school 3 years ago.

I really like how this Spanish class incorporates terminology that we will probably have to use on the job in Nicaragua. When I was first looking at the program, I was a bit worried about how I will be able to help repair the equipment if I wasn’t able to talk to the technicians and doctors in the hospital. I feel like that this class will help mitigate the language barrier and will help me focus on effectively addressing the broken equipment. In addition to this, it will give me opportunity to really probe at the cultures of Costa Rica and Nicaragua so I can obtain a personal connection with these cultures.

I am really excited about this class.

Instrumentation Class

This class trains everyone in the Summer Institute on medical instrumentation. This summer, it is organized by an instructor, Ron, and our On-The-Ground-Coordinator, Cathy. Ron is an engineer in a non-profit company in Canada who tested donated equipment to be sent out to various hospitals. He is also working for EWH in the BMET program in Africa. Cathy was a previous participant of the 2009 Summer Institute and has been to Central America to do non-profit work several times.

The class is structured in such a way that we go through at least 2 medical devices per day as well as one lab per day, Monday through Thursday. Fridays we go to a hospital to see the equipment firsthand and maybe do some practical work as a whole group. For every medical device we go over in the lecture component of the class, we go through:

  1. A description of the device that sums up all of its design inputs.
  2. Different features and controls of the device; basically, how it works.
  3. Common problems with the device.
  4. How to verify the components of each device against the device’s features and design inputs.

So far, we have gone over oxygen concentrators, ventilators, fluid pumps, EKGs, blood pressure machines, pulse oximeters, defibrillators, and infant incubators. These are 8 out of 28 devices that we’re going to cover by the end of the month. It’s a lot of information, but I definitely feel like coming into the program having just taken a BME instrumentation course (as well as my biomaterials and biomechanics courses to a certain extent) was a major advantage for me. I am familiar with most of the electronics already and I feel like most of the information that Ron and Cathy go over is easy to digest. At the same time, devices such as ventilators and fluid pumps are still new to me. Also, I feel like the information gone over in this class is presented in a very practical way, which is a refreshing change to my classes in CCNY so far.

In the lab modules, we first labeled all of our equipment that we are going to bring Nicaragua in Spanish.

Our equipment splayed across the table.

Our next module involved making an extension cord from wire and male and female adaptors.

My hospital partner, Alex, holding the extension cord we made.

We then worked on some soldering.

Alex practicing desoldering.

Friz, my other roommate, practicing desoldering.

We also went over Ohm’s Law, LED’s, and rectifiers. Overall, I’ve been using this part of the program to get used to the equipment that I will be using in Nicaragua so I can use that time as efficiently as possible.

Overall, it has been a very busy and productive week.

Fun Stuff

Outside of exploring San Jose and the places in our homestay, EWH organized a day trip to San Ramon for a zip-linning tour of the canopy. The speed at which we zipped through the mountains, the many feet that we were in the air, and the view over the mountain forrest made it really enjoyable.

Hospital Assignment and Schedule

April 30th, 2012 | Pre-Trip | 1 comment   

Hospital Assignment

La Iglesia parroquial Santiago, de Jinotepe

Engineering World Health finally sent me an email about the hospital I will be assigned to do work in for the entire month of July. It is called the Hospital Regional Santiago Jinotepe in Jinotepe, which is a municipality in (and capital of) the department of Carazo.

More about Jinotepe, Nicaragua according to,

Jinotepe, a town of roughly 32,000, is located in the middle of the mountain ridge that reaches El Crucero and 2,500 feet above sea level. This town enjoys an almost year round breeze of 10 to 25 mph, and the higher elevation (almost 2,000 feet) affords Jinotepe some of the coolest temperatures in the state.

UNAN is located here, as a branch of the National college in Managua. It’s fairly common to find English speakers milling around town. Jinotepe has lots of parks and green spaces great for an afternoon of people watching. The main park is just west of the market and is usually bustling. During the patron saint festivities at the end of July, it’s chaotic.

Jinotepe’s market is about six blocks in size, and is good for everyday shopping. Clothes are ridiculously cheap and there’s a big selection of fruits and veggies (even red onions, cojombro and big, juicy tomatoes). For touristy items, there’s a small yellow market just half a block south of the Pali food store, at the southwest corner of the market. There you will find a half dozen stores with Tshirts, dresses, wooden figurines, and miscellaneous knickknacks. The first store on the left has tourist information and a small selection of maps/brochures.

So excited!

I’ve looked up EWH’s previous work at this hospital and I’ve found a project description and a photo:


Engineering World Health in Jinotepe, Nicaragua
Past Students: 
Summer ’08:
Yoder, Jordan

As a part of the Engineering World Health Summer Institute, Jordan worked in a public hospital in Jinotepe, Nicaragua as a biomedical engineer. The goal of the project was to both fix the out of service medical equipment and to create sustainable engineering solutions to technological inequities in the region. In the process, it was also hoped that the technological needs of this hospital and others like it could be both identified and addressed.

Daniel in the workshop at Hospital Santiago in Jinotepe, Nicaragua (July 22, 2008; with kind permission of EWH)

Not really descriptive, but I guess I will find more soon since I only have 30 more days until I will be training in Costa Rica and in the thick of things!

EWH Summer Institute Central America Day-by-Day 2012

EWH gave me this schedule of the entire program a while ago, but they have been switching a few things around. So, I was hesitant to put it up. Nevertheless here’s the most updated version:


May 29, 2012 All students arrive in Costa Rica by 8 PM.

May 30, 2012

9:30 Placement exams for Spanish

10:00 – 11:00 Orientation to EWH

11:00 – 12:00 Orientation to San Jose and Costa Rica

12:00 – 1:00 Lunch break

1:00 – 2:00 Introduction to Medical Equipment

2:00 – 5:00 Troubleshoot/Repair Medical Equipment Laboratory

June 2, 2012

Students attend Social Event


May 30 – June 26, 2012 (Monday through Thursday)

8:15 – 12:00 Spanish Lessons

12:00 – 1:00 Lunch break

1:00 – 2:00 Introduction to Medical Equipment

2:00 – 5:00 Troubleshoot/Repair Medical Equipment Laboratory

Fridays during June

Hospital workdays near San Jose


June 26, 2012

Transport to airport; fly from Costa Rica to Nicaragua with site coordinator

June 27 – July 27, 2012

8 PM – 5 PM Work at hospitals.


Saturday July 28 – Sunday July 29, 2012

EWH End of Program Conference in Managua

Sunday July 29, 2012

EWH End of Program Conference ends; transport to airport for departure.

That’s all I have to say for now. Stay tuned for more updates since the date for my actual trip is coming nearer and nearer every day!



March 25th, 2012 | Pre-Trip | Comments Off on Accepted!   

About two weeks ago, I was excited to receive my acceptance letter for the 2012 Duke-Engineering World Health Summer Institute in Nicaragua. I came across Engineering World Health last summer when I was looking through summer internships for next summer and I instantly fell in love with it. I was so inspired to help out that I even started a chapter of their organization at The City College of New York. Here are some of the things that struck me in when I went through their page for the first time:

      1. They’re a non-profit with an engineering focus.
      2. They help train BMETs and help repair equipment in developing countries.
      3. They presented a very unconventional view on donations that hopes to remedy the current translational problems many NGOs and charitable organizations that work in developing countries face. Here’s a TED talk by Dr. Malkin, a former Electrical Engineering Professor at CCNY and one of the founders of EWH, that sums up this argument.

They’re pretty awesome and I can’t wait to work with them.

When I do work with them in the Summer Institute, I will first be staying in Costa Rica for a month to learn some basic troubleshooting techniques and learn Spanish. For the next month, I will be in Nicaragua repairing and installing desperately needed equipment as well as training the doctors and the nurses in the use of this equipment. If you would like to know more about the program, go to my project overview page or the summer institute page on the EWH website.

The fifty people who participated  in this program fixed over a million dollars worth of equipment. This is a net yield of half a million dollars if you take away the costs of the institute for all fifty people. Pretty good for one summer, no?

In addition to getting everything together for this, I have had to deal with a 17 credit course load that most BME’s have to take the spring semester of their Junior year, which includes: Biomechanics, Biomaterials, Biomedical Instrumentation, BME Experimental Methods, and Cell and Molecular Biology. “Bio” overload. Speaking of which, I have to study for my Biomechanics midterm on Tuesday. So, I must say so long for now.