HUMANS OF THE U: MOHAN SUDABATTULA

“Last spring, I was having an existential crisis with where I was going, what I wanted to do. Part of it was that my mental health wasn’t in the best place. I was showing classic symptoms of acute depression, but I had no idea what was going on at the time. It got pretty bad. I would stay in bed, hours would roll by, and I started missing tests and projects. I told myself that I had to find a way to re-inspire myself.

At the time, I was volunteering at Shriners Hospital for Children, making braces and prosthetics. Kids quickly outgrew and returned them in amazing condition, but we just had to throw them away. Something felt wrong. Ten years ago, I visited an orphanage in India where children suffered from these exact same diseases, but didn’t have access to the medical devices needed to treat them. Those images stuck with me. So, I started Project Embrace, a non-profit that repurposes unwanted medical devices for patients-in-need abroad. Right from the beginning, I knew I wanted to partner with that orphanage.

This summer, I spent a full day with the kids to see what they needed. In broken Telugu — the dialect that they speak — I’d ask, ‘How would you feel with a new set of crutches?’ They were like, ‘Oh my gosh. That’s so great! I really need it!’

Project Embrace brought things into perspective. I was so caught up with school, it was crushing when I failed to meet crazy expectations. By talking to a counselor and working on an initiative that I cared about, I kept the debilitating self-doubt at bay. The world’s not going to end if you retake a class. At the end of the day, taking what you learned in the classroom and solving real world problems is what’s rewarding; not the letter grade.”

— Mohan Sudabattula, founder of Project Embrace, is triple-majoring in biology, philosophy and health & society


We’ll be featuring Humans of the U and sharing their stories throughout the year with the university community. If you know someone with a compelling story, let us know at ThisWeek@utah.edu.