Why did you enroll in this course (motivation, prior interests)? 


There are various reasons for my enrollment in this course. As a biology and psychology double major on the pre-med track, I have chosen to dedicate my life to helping others not only survive but thrive. Because I am only an undergrad and have a long ways to go before I can make a direct impact on someone’s life, partaking in GSIF was a no brainer. Throughout my entire search for the perfect career path, I did not know much other than the fact that I had a yearning to participate in something far bigger than myself. Hand in hand with my deep interest in the mechanisms of life–more specifically, the body and the brain–joining GSIF and the Diagnosing Autism team offers a platform to reach my goals of impacting the quality of life in people and regions so far removed from the bubble of privilege that is the life of an American private college student. 


A separate yet not so separate reason boils down to my firsthand experience as an Asian-American. Growing up in New York City, both my parents worked 2 or more random, odd jobs each–an example being my father who worked as a busboy, waiter, and paperboy, balancing all three on top of being an illegal immigrant: a job filled with fear, pain, and rigor in and of itself. However, one thing they made sure I did was understand that despite these perceived difficulties in America alone, life in their native country (Indonesia) was far worse. Consequently, I lived in Indonesia for three entire summers as a ploy from my parents’ to increase my gratitude and understanding of my privileged life. Upon getting ill, I noticed virtually no healthcare within the vicinity of our little mountainside village. We would have to travel over an hour to the nearest city for a simple check-up. Even in this small hospital, the conditions were nowhere near the standard for proper sanitation of a healthcare facility. The walls were dirty and moldy, and the rooms were unkempt. I cannot even fathom how mental health would be treated, if even seen as a disability worth putting the money and effort into. 


How do you envision this course making you a better () student? 


To fully commit the time and dedication to a project that directly improves the lives of real people in places distant in both geography and society–and to solve problems that have real, tangible consequences imparts a colossal responsibility upon you and your outlook on life. The amount of focus and growth required to take on an endeavor as ambitious and as seemingly farfetched as curating not only Sierra Leone’s but the entirety of the African continent’s first official, widely recognized diagnostic tool for Autism is immense, to say the very least. This new growth would translate well into my other classes as well as my journey to becoming a physician, as all of these undertakings require a certain amount of utter drive, passion, and “can-do” attitude. Most importantly, it will instill in me the idea that I really can do anything I set my mind to, no matter how daunting, or unrealistic the impending project may be.


The World Health Organization estimates that over one billion people who need eyeglasses do not have access to them. The vast majority of these people live in developing countries like Kenya where there is barely one optometrist per one million people. Given the high poverty levels, access to eyeglasses is almost nonexistent. Lack of proper eyeglasses severely impacts people and their livelihoods by decreasing their productivity at work, limiting or eliminating new opportunities, affecting their quality of life, deteriorating their general health and possibly leading to (preventable) blindness. What solution do you propose to address this problem?


The simplest and most feasible course of direct action would be to somehow gather voluntary (or paid/both) optometrists from around the world to specific regions where this issue is the most prevalent, and have them perform eye exams for a temporary amount of time (a structure similar to Doctors without Borders), and collect funding to distribute the eyeglasses. While this course of action is very direct, it offers only a quick fix to an issue that simply cannot be solved by temporary means. 


In this case, I would probably opt to continue this direct work by all means necessary, but simultaneously have a bottom-up approach in the works as well. This may look like fundraising not only for optometrists to travel to developing regions or purchasing eyeglasses for a mass population of those who need it, but also (and for the most part) funding the education of those who are willing, so that they have the opportunity of spreading their own knowledge to more of those who are willing and so on, so forth. This would hopefully result in a domino effect–a proliferation–of education so that these regions may one day be self sustaining in the fields of healthcare and such. The even greater, more long term hope would be that due to this new generation (and further generations) of an educated populace, they would be able to provide larger masses of children with eyeglasses and the number without the necessary eyecare they deserve reduce to a number that is much more feasible by regional healthcare professionals–to a number that doesn’t intimidate one so much so that it reduces the drive to even pursue a solution due to the gravity of the issue.

One thought on “GSIF POST ONE

  1. Hi Emily,
    Great first blog post! In your response to the eyeglasses challenge, I like that you focus both on a short term fix – visiting doctors – and a long term approach that will eventually be self sustaining.

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