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Drexel Engineering Student Experiences Co-op as a Hospital Volunteer in Mozambique

December 3, 2012

Jamie Howard

College of Engineering student Jamie Howard is spending her co-op volunteering as a part of the Drexel weServe program in the developing nation of Mozambique, where she works with the Chicuque Rural Hospital to solve everyday problems and address unmet needs through innovation.

Howard spends her days working on long-term projects for the hospital; however, much of the student’s work is “on call.” Her tasks include anything from working on a broken oxygen machine during an operation to training a new group of nurses to use patient monitors. The weServe group often travels to other regions to compare their equipment and speak with the technicians and doctors there. Howard admits that she has faced some challenges while working with the hospital, but has been able to use her education to work through it.

Chicuque Rural Hospital faces many challenges daily because of their lack of resources which challenges the Drexel weServe volunteers to be resourceful when it comes to adversity.

“We have to be creative because there is no money to just go to the hardware store and buy new equipment when something breaks. We have to find a way to reuse materials we already have, even if it’s in an unconventional way.” Howard adds, “I am learning how to continuously adapt my work so that it is sustainable and I am tuning into how technology can be made more appropriate for a place that has few resources at its disposal.”

Howard has been able to use her background in engineering at Maxixe Mozambique, especially when it comes to problem solving. While working at Chicuque Rural Hospital, the engineering students face many problems that they wouldn’t normally face. Jamie’s experience in engineering has helped her to break down problems and investigate them with both an analytical and open mind.

“My engineering education has taught me to investigate issues even if I am unfamiliar with them, an invaluable skill I want to spread,” says Howard of her experience at Drexel.

Not only has Jamie’s Drexel education assisted her in working with the hospital but she also feels that her co-op experience has prepared her a great deal. Having previously worked at Freescale Semiconductor, Howard says, “I feel like I am much better equipped to work on a team with varied skills and different personalities. I’m also much more knowledgeable in project management and troubleshooting, and I am eager to jump in and get involved with many different kinds of endeavors.”

The weServe initiative was led by Drexel University’s Biomedical Engineering students to find opportunities and support students who elect to complete co-ops as volunteers in health facilities in the US and globally using their biomedical engineering skills and understanding of local needs.

Along with allowing Howard to use her engineering skills to work to solve problems for the hospital, weServe has also taught Howard the valuable skill of working with others.

She says, “We are here to work with the people, not for the people. The power of collaboration is beautiful. Working side by side with the local hospital staff is a fantastic way to engage leadership and inspire change for everyone.”

For more information on the weServe program, click here.