The U of T Engineering World Health (EWH) student organization has been named the 2015-2016 Chapter of the Year by its parent society. The recognition acknowledges the work and progress of the most outstanding EWH chapter out of 43 groups worldwide each year. Past recipients include student groups from the University of California San Diego and Virginia Commonwealth University.
U of T EWH conducted eight events and initiatives over the course of the previous academic year. Led by PhD candidates Shreya Shukla and Nimalan Thavandiran from University Professor Peter Zandstra’s Laboratory for Stem Cell Bioengineering in the Institute of Biomaterials & Biomedical Engineering (IBBME), their efforts included gathering volunteers to repair broken medical equipment in low-resource hospitals for Ghana Medical Help in Tanzania, Nicaragua and Rwanda, and mentoring a biomedical engineering undergraduate student team in a design course to conceptualize and build a low-cost vaccine carrier.
They also collaborated with Let’s Talk Science to mentor a first-year U of T Engineering course team to build educational kits for local high schools, and offered two workshops that provided students with basic knowledge about electrical components that could be used in the design and repair of biomedical devices.
The team organized a symposium on February 22 on the theme of “Engineers as Global Health Interdisciplinary Team Players.” The event attracted more than 100 students and professionals from a range of STEM backgrounds, along with attendees from global affairs, pharmacy, public health and nursing.
“My PhD thesis looks at how we can use stem cells to produce immune cells in a clinically-scalable and cost-effective manner that could one day conquer global diseases like HIV,” said Shukla. “My supervisor encouraged me to see how I might be able to look beyond my research and that’s how I discovered this organization. I hope U of T EWH’s activities will motivate and inspire others to think about their work in the context of global health challenges.”
A U of T EWH design team was also awarded the runner-up prize in the 2016 EWH / Tensentric Design Competition. In an initiative organized by Chapter executive and IBBME graduate student Tricia Jose, a multidisciplinary team of students came up with a design concept that used tablet technology to communicate patient needs using drawings and pictography, and then translated them into a variety of languages using machine learning and speech-to-speech translation. The team is now piloting their app, known as HealthBridge—A Translation Service, at St. Michael’s Hospital and The Scarborough Hospital.
“Congratulations to all of the students who were involved with our Engineering World Health student chapter and to the HealthBridge team on their recognition,” said Professor Zandstra, who served as the group’s faculty advisor. “These students are truly our emerging leaders, working not only on transformative fundamental research but also considering how their work impacts needs throughout the world. I am very proud of our students who have dedicated themselves to this important endeavour.”
The EWH awards were formally announced at this year’s Biomedical Engineering Society (BMES) Annual Meeting held in Minneapolis from October 5 to 8, 2016.