Designing solutions to ensure equity in health care MIT News

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Growing up in the Boston suburbs, MIT senior Daisy Wang spent her free time upside down underwater and dancing with her competitive artistic swimming team.

“It feels like you and your teammates are one unit in the water, moving and working together, and there’s an incredible amount of trust involved in all the lifts and throws,” she said in her dorm room on campus. Said to.

From synchronized swimming, Wang learned a valuable lesson about how deeply connected people are: One person’s challenge is everyone else’s challenge. On many evenings, when Wang is not at MIT, she can be found strolling the same pool deck at Cambridge Synchro, where she has taken on a coaching role on the team.

Wang is an aspiring physician, studying in biological engineering and mining in Women’s and Gender Studies, She says what draws her to both disciplines is her passion for engineering solutions to social problems that have the potential to affect systemic change.

“I’m a completely different person in my biological engineering classes and women’s and gender studies courses,” says Wang. She says biological engineering demands creative problem-solving and unlimited iteration, while women’s and gender studies A different, equally important skill set is required.

“Since my first WGS.101 class, we have never read a static text. We apply the lessons to our lives and share our personal experiences looking at the real world through a gender framework,” she says.

Finding ways to benefit society

In the fall of 2023, Wang’s two academic worlds unexpectedly collided in Class 20.380 (Biological Engineering Design), a capstone course in which small groups of undergraduates integrate theoretical knowledge to design hypothetical new products to benefit society. We do.

“My team wanted to come up with a system that could automatically sense opioid overdose in opioid users and administer emergency treatment with Narcan (Naloxone HCI),” she explains.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse reported that in 2021, there were 80,411 deaths from opioid overdoses in the United States. Although Narcan, a drug that rapidly reverses overdose, is increasingly available at major drug stores such as CVS, Wang and colleagues noted that Narcan cannot be self-administered.

Many overdoses occur when users are alone. “Narcan works by binding to opioid receptors and acting as an antagonist,” says Wang. “Our idea was to develop a microneedle patch to detect and treat overdose.”

As Wang learned more about the opioid epidemic, she realized that, “Ultimately, new technologies mean nothing if we can’t make them work for people who need them.”

In her work as an intern in the Health Equity Research Lab at Cambridge Health Alliance, she sees this firsthand in the local hospital system. with funding from Priscilla King Gray Public Service Center At MIT, Wang is helping a team analyze data regarding the implementation of a mental health survey instrument used by physicians to monitor patients’ symptoms.

“Right now, it’s a digital survey tool — and that’s a really big equity issue,” she says. For example, many patients do not speak English, and some do not have access to a phone with Internet access, which is how surveys are administered. Wang is studying both qualitative and quantitative data in depth to make recommendations to improve this tool for the future.

The internship helped her determine that she wanted to specialize in implementation science as a physician, studying how evidence-based solutions are put into practice and made accessible to patient populations.

“Passion breeds passion”

Back on campus, Wang is operations chair Pleasure@MIT, a student-led group designed to enhance positive relationships on campus through education and change in cultural norms. She frequently facilitates peer-to-peer workshops and training on sensitive topics such as safe sex, consent, self-love and positive body image.

This experience of facilitating difficult conversations, listening deeply, and helping to support a community translated into fieldwork this January as a student enrolled in EC.718/WGS in Oyugis, Kenya. 277 (MIT D-Lab Gender and Development course). The class was co-taught by Ford Professor of Philosophy and Women’s and Gender Studies Sally Haslanger and D-Lab lecturer Libby MacDonald.

In the field, Wang and colleagues supported the ongoing D-Lab initiative in collaboration with the Society Empowerment Project, a community-based organization in the country. Together, they aimed to co-design solutions to educate youth about menstrual and reproductive health and ways to support teen parenthood.

His greatest lesson was, “Passion begets passion.” This was especially true among the team members, who gave up sleep each night of the trip to prepare slides for the next day’s workshop and inspired each other to care deeply about the community. “This was also true of the participants who came from far and wide to attend the workshop and delve into the solutions,” she says.

The experience in Kenya brought together Wang’s studies, research, internships, and even her biggest future goal of becoming a physician who advocates for patients.

She jumped in with enthusiasm, but like synchronized swimming, Wang says, “We did everything in true partnership with the team on the ground. While we provided assistance with the design cycle and logistics of ideation, imaging, prototyping, and testing, our partners were thinking about their own program. One move at a time.

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