Reece Stevens

Biomedical Engineering Student at UT Austin

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Ekdam Sundar

Driving above the clouds on a mountain switchback

My last week in Nepal has been an incredible and crazy journey, and I have Okhaldhunga to thank for that. I’ve met some incredible people and seen some beautiful places, and most importantly, I have been reminded why developing world medical technology matters so much.

After transferring from Bir Hospital, our hospital team began a journey to find a new hospital for the upcoming Summer Institute. We hopped in a jeep early Sunday morning and drove 10 hours into the eastern region of Nepal; in the process, I got to see a whole other side of the country that Kathmandu had somewhat sheltered me from. The road started out as a smooth blacktop that gradually degraded into a rockier path punctuated by the occasional landslide; switchbacks carried us up and down colossal hills, occasionally poking our heads above the clouds and giving a...

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Nothing makes you feel small like standing in a bustling five-story developing world hospital, holding your toolkit and wondering where to start fixing things. Even though this is my third trip with Engineering World Health, I still feel the same nervousness and anticipation as I did on my first day in Rwanda; every successful repair, every unsolvable software error or warranty violation, and every moment of connection with another person brings the same wide array of highs and lows. The immersion into a new culture is overwhelming and exhilarating; learning about a new way of life, meeting our homestay family and being integrated into the community, and working in the local hospital all are incredible ways to know Nepal a little bit better each day.

Some things about Nepal are very reminiscent of Rwanda. For example, streets are incredibly chaotic and overcrowded, and horns are...

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The Long Road to the Himalayas


If I had told myself on my first day of college that I would travel abroad three times to two different developing world countries during the next three years, I would have laughed at myself. And yet here I am, sitting in an airport food court in Doha, Qatar for my third trip with Engineering World Health, awaiting my flight to Kathmandu, Nepal.

As I am setting out on this adventure, an article has been weighing heavily on my mind (I would post the link, but I can’t find the article again and the airport wifi is pretty sluggish). It was an editorial post about the negative effects of volunteerism, and in it the author made the claim that most volunteer trips are for the benefit of the participants and not the local population. In fact, he went so far as to say that most volunteer trips are actually harmful in the long run to the people they claim to help– and unfortunately, I know...

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The Human Factor

My friend Junior posing next to the house he is building for his future family. I visited his house last year as well, and he’s made a lot of progress in a year!

I have found during my time as OTGC that my job entails moving to many different places, covering lots of ground, but never really rooting myself in one place. This is a big difference from last year, where I was able to really integrate myself into Muhanga and embrace the town and lifestyle and people and let it impact me. I have spent a lot of time this year viewing Rwanda from arm’s length, and while it is a valuable perspective, too much time there can make you lose sight of what’s important.

When we talk about Rwanda, or Africa, or “developing countries”, there is often a divide that manifests itself in our perspective. A newsman once said that “Americans love cartoons,” and while I agree with him, I think that everyone...

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Urugendo Ruhire

Watching from the shores of Kamembe, Rwanda, as the sun sets behind the hills of the Congo.

In two weeks, I have logged approximately 42 hours in buses. I’ve been to every corner of Rwanda, from the flat and dry pastureland of Nyagatare to the beautiful lakeside border town of Kamembe. I’ve been to eight different hospitals and seen all 16 current students in the Summer Institute overcome a huge variety of issues, ranging from too few technicians to too many, ancient medical equipment or devices so high-tech they can’t even function in developing world environments, and more. If last summer was an intense case study in my hospital, this summer is a zoomed-out perspective on healthcare across Rwanda at every tier of the medical hierarchy.

Rwanda’s medical system is arranged in a decentralized fashion: there are big referral hospitals which service several smaller (and less...

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Welcome Back


Last year upon my return from Rwanda, I made a promise to myself that I would go back. I didn’t know when or how; I only knew that God had prodded my heart and told me that my story with the Rwandan people was not yet over. Now I’m sitting in an airport in Doha, Qatar, waiting for my flight to Kigali; while I know that this experience will be completely different than last year, I can’t help but feel all the excitement and apprehension and the vast pressing weight of the unknown– just like it was my first time.

This summer, I am continuing my work with Engineering World Health as an On The Ground Coordinator. My job is to help all the new Summer Institute students with issues that may arise as they undergo the transition from training to working in their hospitals as well as work with contacts on the
ground to maintain good standing between EWH and the Rwandan government. I can’t...

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It’s been hard for me to find a way to put a neat “wrapper” of sorts on my experience in Rwanda– I have been home for a week now, and that whole time I struggled with what to write as a final reflection on my time there. The reason for this is that the experience as a whole was so incredibly complex and so open ended that it’s impossible to summarize or present it neatly, in a way that I can show to everyone as a tidy little package that I can just as soon put away and resume my normal life. It’s also not an experience that somehow makes me more “enlightened” or at a better state– in fact, many of the things I have seen and experienced have only made me realize all the more how much I don’t know and how many assumptions I have made that are incorrect! But this experience is nevertheless one that is a deep part of me, and one I will not forget for many many years.

From a biomedical...

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It has been two weeks since my last post, and in that time so much has happened that I could not decide what to write about. I went through several drafts, scrapped each of them, and ended up staring at a blank screen– not for lack of things to write about, but rather for the fear that I would be unable to communicate the entirety of how my experience so far in Muhanga has impacted me. It has been an incredible and humbling experience, and I know that its importance will not fully sink in until I have left– however, of the many lessons I am being taught, the one that has left the biggest impression on me is learning the meaning of true service.

Kabgayi District Hospital, as seen on my ride to work every morning

Muhanga is a small town southwest of Kigali, in the Southern Province of Rwanda. It sits high up on a hill, high enough for the air to have a chill in the morning and evening...

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The Final Week in Kigali

Although it’s hard to wrap my mind around it, the first half of my time in Rwanda is coming to a close, as is my time in the capital city of Kigali. Our classes have been busy preparing us for month two, where we will be sent out with our partner to different hospitals throughout the country and work as Biomedical Engineering Technicians (BMETs). I will be going to the town of Muhanga in the Southern Province to work in the Kabgayi District Hospital, and I am both nervous and excited to see where I will be living and working for the next month! However, I feel like I just now have started to adjust to living in Kigali. The rhythm of the city has become less foreign to me: I am starting to navigate the streets with relative confidence, I am learning the rules of bartering (you have to be careful not to be charged “Muzungu prices!”), and, in a more macroscopic sense, I feel like I am...

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Climbing Mount Bisoke


This weekend, our group planned an excursion of the more typical Rwandan tourism type: the Volcanoes National Park. This park is situated on the northern side of Rwanda, bordering the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Uganda and lined with very impressive mountains. We had expected our trip to be a hike up the mountain to a crater lake at the top of Mount Bisoke, sitting at a lofty 3,700 + meters (that’s over 12,000 feet for you non-metric folk out there). What we actually experienced was incredibly strenuous, and pretty unexpected.

Arriving at the base of the mountain around 8 AM or so, we were taken as a group by several guides up to a stone wall that signified the beginning of park territory. I should mention before I go any further that this trip was considered the most popular volcano hike– from all accounts, we expected this hike to be pretty do-able and accessible to...

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