Carnegie Mellon University

Eda Akyar

Eda Akyar (S 2011)

Biological Sciences major, global health advocate, pre-med student


Serving people in developing communities

Eda Akyar has always had a great interest in global health, and she didn't want to wait until medical school to pursue her passion. Now a senior biological sciences major in the Science and Humanities Scholars Program, she worked with several of her peers to establish a chapter of Global Medical Brigades, an international student-led global health organization, at Carnegie Mellon in 2008. She was inspired by her sister, who traveled with the New York University Global Medical Brigades chapter.

"When I heard about it, I was really excited and I thought it was something that Carnegie Mellon could really benefit from-having a trip that is completely student run, where we go and help to set up medical clinics to serve people in developing communities," said Akyar.

Akyar organized her first brigade in 2009. She and Devleen Ronomit Baksi, a senior biological sciences and psychology major, led 10 students to Panama to conduct mobile clinics in under-resourced communities. Akyar and her team conducted daylong clinics, rotating duties in the various stations-intake and triage, evaluation by a doctor and pharmacy.

"At first, I was concerned about my Spanish-speaking abilities, because it had been two years since I had taken a Spanish course. But by the end of the trip, I could think in Spanish," said Akyar. "During the last brigade, there was a doctor who needed help-she just couldn't understand her patient. So I sat down with the patient and took his history on my own. This type of patient-interaction really resonated in me and continues to motivate me to serve others."

When she returned from Panama, Akyar began planning the next Global Medical Brigades trip, this time to Honduras. She worked with her team of 16 students to solicit donations of money and medications to take with them to Honduras and to raise funds to hire two Honduran doctors to join them. The team arrived in Honduras with 20 suitcases full of medications as well as supplies for the clinics and toys for the local children.

"People walked for miles to reach our clinic and waited for hours to be treated by our team. Despite the physical challenges of reaching the clinic and waiting for medical attention, all of the villagers were so appreciative, warm and welcoming. Through their kind words and smiles, we all understood that we were having an impact on their lives. On a personal level, this reminded me of why I want so badly to enter the medical field. The trip was a great reminder of why I'm working so hard to achieve my ultimate goal. I one day hope to return as a doctor for the Brigades, and to be able to serve and teach the students coming in to help the patients that are there."

Between both brigades, Akyar and her team were able to help over 1,500 villagers and distribute over $100,000 worth of medicine and medical supplies.