PROMOTE HEALTH. REDUCE WASTE.

By Jana Cunningham, communications specialist, University Marketing and Communications

While volunteering in a pediatric prosthetics and orthotic services department at a local hospital, Mohan Sudabattula, a U student majoring in biochemistry, philosophy and health, society and policy, quickly noticed just how fast children outgrow their devices. He realized there was a huge potential to take these devices and refabricate them for someone else instead of disposing of them. This led him to create the nonprofit organization, Project Embrace.

Currently living in the Humanities House, Sudabattula took some time to answer questions about his desire to make global health care more accessible and the importance of bridging sciences and humanities.

Q: What is Project Embrace?

A: Project Embrace is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the reduction of global health inequalities and promotion of a healthy planet. We do this through the collection, sanitation, shipment and delivery of sustainable medical devices, in particular, materials that provide skeletal support and mobility assistance to patients in need across the globe.

Q: What are some examples of the medical devices you reuse?

A: The devices we propose to reuse are noninvasive medical devices that either provide skeletal structural support and/or provide mobility-based aid for patients in need. Examples of these kinds of devices are crutches, slings, neck braces, knee braces, medical boots, wheelchairs and orthotic materials.

Q: Where do you plan to send them?

A: Ideally, we’d like to send our donations to a number of low and middle-income countries. Our first batch of donations is scheduled to be sent out in the summer of 2017 to the Vegesna Foundation, located in Hyderabad, India. The Vegesna Foundation is an orphanage that serves as a safe haven for children who suffer from mental disabilities, physical handicaps and other impairments. These children are rescued, given a home, an education, are well tended to and even given free health care in the form of physical therapy. In fact, the foundation was recently outfitted with their own prosthetics and orthotics lab and regularly produces devices for the children that live on the grounds.

Q: How does the project benefit the environment?

A: Currently, in medicine, it is practiced to discard these forms of devices after limited use either to a landfill or by incineration. By repurposing excess and waste in one country to meet the need for usable and affordable medical supplies in another country, Project Embrace is an innovative way to address global health inequalities while addressing the pressing concern of environmental justice through the reduction in medical waste in traditional healthcare facilities in America.

Q: What are your hopes for the project?

A: My personal hopes for this project are to see it go in one of two ways. Ideally, I would like to see Project Embrace flourish and become an effective global agent to reduce global health inequalities, but I also wouldn’t mind seeing Project Embrace fail entirely. I say this mainly because it is not Project Embrace I care about, I care about the issue. My main goal is to combat global health inequalities and make healthcare more accessible in areas where it is currently limited. Project Embrace is just one possible way I can promote this. If Project Embrace ends up not being the best way to address this problem then I’ll move on to the next idea. This is something I believe any entrepreneur, or leader in general, needs to recognize; that your attachment should not be with the mechanisms of a particular product or service, but rather the outcome you are trying to achieve. If the original idea isn’t solving the issue you set out to fix, then be able to recognize that and move on and find a better way. That being said, I would definitely like to see Project Embrace succeed because I believe in it.

Q: You currently live in the Humanities House on campus. Why were your interested in living there?

A: I’ve always been interested in approaching my education from an interdisciplinary perspective. If there is one thing I am absolutely fond of, it is the ability to collaborate with others from various backgrounds. For me, being able to approach, or even view a problem from multiple angles has constantly proven the best way to combat an issue. A single perspective alone is never enough to fully understand the complexities of the subject at hand. With this in mind, my academic background leading up to college was in the sciences, particularly in biology. I grew up appreciating the empirical approach that the sciences traditionally take, but it wasn’t until I declared in philosophy, that I began to appreciate the importance of qualitative and rhetorical approaches. Being able to utilize both these methodologies was, and still is, very important to me. I knew that by joining the Humanities House, I would be able to further investigate the bridge between the sciences and humanities, while at the same time, be able to engage in critical dialogue with my fellow housemates and esteemed faculty.

To apply to the Humanities House, visit the website.