Third year student Merlin Hetherington has been awarded the SES Gough Explorer prize for 2018. Merlin and fellow student Alex McMaster will cycle from Cairo to Cape Town on a tandem bike distributing Arclight opthalmoscopes to medical students and healthcare workers on their route.
During my third year, we covered Diseases of the Eye and one lecture in particular covered the epidemiology of eye disease, describing a huge burden of preventable blindness worldwide, especially in Africa. I was really inspired by the work that had gone into developing the Arclight – innovated specifically for low-resource settings. The potential the device has to change the provision of eye-care in Africa is something that is worth pursuing and I wanted to get involved. No one should suffer with preventable blindness and the device can bring diagnostic and screening capabilities into the hands of a workforce that previously hasn’t had access to such resources. Our project aims to distribute Arclights and to train healthcare workers and students as we cycle from Cairo to Cape Town.
Part of my drive to study Medicine was to be able to play a role in alleviating suffering and reducing global health inequalities. Sharing skills and education is an important piece in the puzzle, and for my dissertation I enjoyed investigating low-cost training tools to help people use the Arclight /ophthalmoscopes. I hope that through the Arclight tandem Africa project Alex and I are able to contribute a small step towards the Vision2020 goal of ending preventable blindness. At the very least our ambitious cycle ride, by tandem, will draw attention to eye-care and neglected diseases, and will hopefully inspire people with more substantial capabilities to drive forward change.
The experience of 10,000km by bike through Africa will be phenomenal, and the exposure to global health will be be absolutely eye-opening, inspiring and influential on the rest of my life and career.
One of the many things I learned from my dissertation is that progress in Science and Medicine is made by many people, each making small contributions to a larger body of knowledge or work. In a similar way, I hope this project is a step towards bringing all people the right to sight.
Further details on Merlin’s award can be found here.
Follow the journey on FB and Twitter. Feel free to get in touch by email.
FB: https://www.facebook.com/arclight.tandemafrica/ @arclight.tandemafrica
TW: https://twitter.com/tandemafrica @tandemafrica