Dr. Pritpal Singh, Professor and Chair of Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE), is spearheading an initiative to use EC technologies to improve health care in rural communities in developing countries. Working with students and faculty in Villanova’s College of Nursing, Dr. Singh, Dr. Sarvesh Kulkarni, Associate Professor of ECE, and a cohort of one graduate and four undergraduate ECE students are focusing their outreach efforts on the communities in and around Waslala, Nicaragua, an area that already receives engineering and nursing services from Villanova University.
Dr. Singh was inspired to explore technological solutions to the health-care crisis in developing countries when he attended the IEEE’s Humanitarian Technology Challenge (HTC) Conference in June 2009 in Washington, DC. The mission of the HTC is to develop and deploy sustainable solutions to three selected global challenges: (a) reliable electrical power, (b) data connectivity of rural district health offices, and (c) individual ID tied to electronic health records. The conference attendees were charged with contributing to the solution-development process through an online collaborative site.
In addition to working with his IEEE colleagues, Dr. Singh recognized in the HTC endeavor an opportunity for joint service between members of his department and the College of Nursing. Following the conference, he brainstormed ideas for health-care-related projects with assistant professors Elizabeth Keech, PhD, RN, and Ruth McDermott-Levy, PhD, RN, both of whom have traveled with students to Waslala to conduct health assessments and educational programs. He then assembled his team of Engineering and Nursing faculty and students.
In October, Dr. Singh, attended a follow-up HTC workshop in Washington, the purpose of which was to further the development of solutions to the three challenges. Joining him were Dr. Kulkarni and the five ECE students. “It was a wonderful experience, and we had great representation, especially in terms of students,” Dr. Singh said. The entire team intends to make a project-planning trip to Nicaragua in May. The faculty members also have submitted several grant proposals to obtain funding for their work.