October 21, 2015

Mayo grad students reach out to their neighbors (in El Salvador)

By Carl Gustafson

Written by Crystal Mendoza and Carl Gustafson

The Biomedical Engineering and Physiology (BMEP) students are going global! In 2009, a few students got together and formed the Initiative for Medical Equipment Sustainability (IMES) to address issues of transferring medical technology to developing countries, and making those technologies sustainable. Since then, the program has grown to become part of the local Biomedical Engineering Society (BMES), and has received funding and mentorship support from the Program in Underserved Global Health (PUGH).

The IMES team from Mayo Clinic in San Salvador, September 2015.

The IMES team from Mayo Clinic, along with local collaborators from Hospital Nacional Rosales in San Salvador, September 2015.

In 2009, Mambidzeni (Mambi) Madzivire applied for, and was awarded, a Clinton Global Initiative University grant. She proposed that, through the already established partnership between Mayo Clinic and the Hospital Nacional Rosales in San Salvador, El Salvador, students at Mayo Clinic could provide education and training in the use and maintenance of medical equipment. The focus of this outreach was to improve translation of currently available medical technologies to underserved areas. Later in 2009, Mambi and another BMEP student, Casey Johnson, made their first trip to El Salvador. They quickly realized the best means to establishing a sustainable and impactful outreach would be to focus their efforts on a single, initial task, with the plan to further expand in later years. They chose to concentrate on the repair and maintenance of endoscopy equipment, as the need in El Salvador was striking, and resources at Mayo were strong. Endoscopy equipment, in particular, requires frequent maintenance: if left without repair, entire pieces of equipment may need to be replaced, costing thousands of dollars. In contrast, regular upkeep is relatively cheap, but necessitates that the technicians using the equipment are capable of providing their own maintenance. The impact of well trained technicians was noted by Mambi and Casey, and became the initial focus of the IMES.

Hospital Nacional Rosales, San Salvador, El Salvador.

Hospital Nacional Rosales, San Salvador, El Salvador.

In subsequent years, a succession of students from the BMEP program at Mayo Clinic led and developed the IMES program. Loribeth Evertz, Brent Berry, Sara Aristizabal Taborda, Maria Gonzalez Porras, and Ephraim Ben-Abraham are currently involved in the continuous support of IMES, and training of technicians and students in El Salvador. One of the largest challenges was to secure consistent mentorship from within Mayo, and to find a Mayo Clinic internal funding source to aid in the sustainability of this initiative. In recent years, both missions have been accomplished. Dr. Luis Lujan has joined the IMES group as their faculty mentor and has been exceptionally helpful in providing a clear and consistent direction to the outreach. Further, the Mayo Clinic PUGH, directed by Dr. John Wilson, has continued to provide funding support as well as further mentorship to IMES.

Brent Berry and Ephraim Ben-Abraham address concerns about a piece of endoscopy equipment.

Brent Berry and Ephraim Ben-Abraham address concerns about a piece of endoscopy equipment.

The biomedical engineering program at the Universidad Don Bosco in San Salvador provides the perfect environment for training students and future technicians; this idea of providing education offers long-term sustainability. The IMES group is now working to establish a partnership with the University, with many exciting, new developments to come. If you would like to hear more about the work of the IMES group (directly from the students themselves), come to their talk! This coming Friday, October 23rd at 12 p.m. in Mann Hall, the IMES students will be giving a seminar on their work in El Salvador, and discussing its potential to expand and impact larger fields in the biomedical community. We hope to see you there!

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