Abraar Karan's Global Impact Lab Research

Personal Statement

Working as a volunteer in rural villages in South India to screen patients for cataracts that, if left untreated, would result in irreversible blindness was a rewarding and enlightening experience. The difficulties of a life in poverty and ill health and the way these dimensions were linked with poor education and lack of opportunities made my research all the more personal and relevant. Most of the villagers had no sense of what was causing their poor vision, and thus had no means of preventing cataracts. Similarly, the majority of study participants were either illiterate or had less than 2 years of formal education. Their poor vision often led to the inability to work, care for children, or enjoy daily activities. The research study was useful in confirming the efficacy of multimedia in conveying crucial medical knowledge to cataract patients in a more informative manner than solely a verbal method.

The research experience enhanced my own learning and understanding of medicine and treatment of patients from vulnerable backgrounds. Vulnerable or uneducated populations are generally treated with medical paternalism and efforts to explain medical concepts are avoided, especially so in developing countries. As this approach to treatment violates medical ethics, I am hopeful that the positive findings of my study will improve the treatment of patients in the developing world. The use of visual images transcended the boundaries of literacy, education, gender, and prior medical knowledge. Furthermore, the results confirmed the feasibility of low cost, high quality educational interventions which have to date been underutilized in vulnerable populations where it is more needed.