I’m 35,000 feet in the air, writing about my last week of memories in Kisumu. The past week has been full of adventures, though none quite as compelling as what happened the weekend before. But in any case, I realized I haven’t given any updates on my project that I have finally completed with the help of my co-author, Jordi.
The device, called the S.H.I.E.L.D. (Sexual Health Innovation Empowering Lives Directly), is designed to help patients in the post-operative period after undergoing voluntary medical male circumcision (VMMC). In the days following the removal of the bandage (day 3 post-op), the wound area experiences swelling, sutures catch on the pants and tug painfully, and an unsanitary environment heightens the chance of infection. Patients must be very delicate with the area until they are fully recovered (somewhere around day 14). Our innovation targets this period from days 3 to 14. Resembling a modified jockstrap or brief, the S.H.I.E.L.D. works by supporting and protecting the wound with a comfortable and absorptive material. It is also specifically designed for use in low-resource areas, as the manufacturing process is quick and requires no imported materials (at least where we designed it in Kisumu). The beauty of it? It costs a mere $2.73 to make. And that price will most likely decline if future manufacturing practices are scaled up.
We had a lot of help along the way and are excited about the process of taking this innovation further, as we believe that our innovation has a lot of potential to help those men trying to take their health in their own hands. Our next few steps will be to assess the efficacy of the device through survey and clinical trial. Beyond that? Spreading the word about the device and incorporating distribution to other VMMC programs.
It has been a wonderful six weeks. I’ve made some great friends, learned a lot about myself, and experienced cultures different from those I have grown up in. I can only hope I spend the rest of my life learning about what the world has to offer and how to help those unable to help themselves. Right now I can see myself doing it through medicine, but then again, who knows what plans life has for each of us?
In the end, I want to thank my parents for helping me out in so many ways, all of the Harvard faculty and staff for putting on a great program, Dr. Ken Elam and Dr. Thomas Burke for helping me find out about the program and providing invaluable insight about medicine, all of those who I have worked with at NRHS, Jordi for being a great co-author and friend, all of the Harvard Summer Program students for being wonderfully supportive and extremely intelligent, and, finally, all of you who have read my blog and kept up with my adventures in the past six weeks. Thank you!