Jun 19, 2019 1:23 PM

Author: Shaun Ajay

Given the ongoing struggle for health care access and equality, students like Mohan Sudabattula provide us with a beacon of hope to our community.

In 2017, Sudabattula, a University of Utah student, started Project Embrace, a global medical non-profit organization. He and his team of eight students are dedicated to providing access to health care for all by gathering used medical equipment in the United States, then refurbishing and redistributing it to low resource settings across the nation and around the globe.

Equipment collected in Sudabattula's office

Project Embrace began while Sudabattula was developing orthotics and prosthetics for pediatric patients. Spending hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars on making equipment, he said it felt wasteful to only see them used for a month.

At age 10, Sudabattula and his mother took a trip to India, where they visited an orphanage home for disabled children. He saw kids his age with different mobility impairments, from neurological disabilities to amputees from trauma. “Throwing away things like crutches and wheelchairs feels wasteful,” Sudabattula says, “when kids with the same disabilities and symptoms across the pond didn’t have that stuff.”

After conducting research for a year and pitching his idea, Sudabattula received two reactions. Some health care professionals said, “It’s a good idea, but it’s super naïve,” while some of his peers said, “I’ve been waiting to give this stuff away—it’s just been collecting dust.” To strengthen his idea, Sudabattula began taking graduate-level classes on International Health Policy and undergraduate-level classes on Global Health with Juan Carlos Negrett, PhD, and Ty Dickerson, MD. 

Mohan Sudabattula
Sudabattula has just returned from his trip to Southern Utah

In 2017, Sudabattula shared Project Embrace at the Extreme Affordability Conference, held by University of Utah School of Medicine. His project snowballed. Sudabattula was invited to speak at the Utah state legislature, and at different universities, such as John Hopkins and Oxford. People started to take notice, and soon enough, he was getting calls about donations. 

Thanks to that financial support, Project Embrace has distributed medical equipment across the globe, changing the lives of people in marginalized communities like the Navajo Nation in Southern Utah, orphanages in India, and children in Swaziland, Africa.

“It’s been an incredibly humbling and rewarding experience,” Sudabattula said, “taking what we learn in college and applying it to the real world.”

Photo Credit: Charlie Ehlert 

Student Healthcare Global Health