Student organization repairs medical equipment for underprivileged countries


Courtesy of Medwish international's facebook

CWRU Medwish volunteers repaired over $170,000 worth of medical equipment for underprivileged hospitals.

Anna Giubileo, Staff Reporter

Case Western Reserve University prides itself on the myriad of hands-on learning opportunities it offers its students. One such opportunity is CWRU’s student organization MedWish, an offshoot of MedWish International.

Every other Saturday, student members of the organization meet to repurpose and repair discarded medical equipment at MedWish International’s Cleveland headquarters. Once the devices are once again functioning, they are shipped to underprivileged hospitals in countries ranging from Ethiopia to Liberia to Pakistan.

Julian Narvaez, a third-year electrical engineering major, joined October of his first year and is now the current president.

“I wanted to get into engineering that was very practically helping people in a direct manner.”

Because the organization is only able to meet every two weeks, Narvaez has been working on making sure the trips are as impactful as possible, and that there are devices ready for students to repair, test and package.

“I’m graced with an executive board of eight people: Jonathan Chen. Incredible. Jasmine Haraburda. Incredible. Mark Madler. Incredible. Maeve Salm, Incredible. Shyam Sunder Polaconda. Incredible. Anish Reddy. Incredible. Ari Bard. Incredible.”

Narvaez repeatedly mentioned that the club would not be where it is now if it were not for the efforts of the students on his executive board. “They are all very good at what they do.” 

In the last calendar year, CWRU MedWish repaired over $170,000 worth of medical equipment, ranging from Masimo Pulse Oximeters that measure body metrics to phaco emulsifiers for cataract surgery.

“This is way more than a technical issue,” shared Narvaez. “Look at it through the lens of social action.”

Rather than just focusing on the mechanics of repairing the circuits and other technical aspects of the medical devices, Adriana Velazquez Berumen, the senior advisor and focal point of medical devices at the World Health Organization, helped the organization realize the human aid component of the work they were doing.

The group works to help the countries to which they provide medical equipment reach the United Nation’s adopted sustainable development goals, specifically those of “good health and well-being.”

MedWish itself is relatively new to campus. When Narvaez first joined it was called Medical Instruments for Nations Under Development (MIND). The club was small, consisting of less than a dozen people. Eventually, they merged with Engineers Without Borders to create the MedWish students today know.

This past year, the group, with the help of their advisor Professor Colin Drummond from the Department of Biomedical Engineering, applied for and received a grant for $20,000 to be put towards the education of new students in the organization.

Additionally, the organization has its sights set on possibly partnering with the Cleveland Clinic or professional chemical engineers so they might guide the students and offer their expertise.  

Narvaez wanted students who might be interested in joining to know that no technical experience is necessary. 

“We are looking for students from all backgrounds. We’ll give you technical expertise. Just by virtue of being there and offering your own perspective you’re helping in a very substantial manner.”