Andover Townsman, Andover, MA

Townspeople

December 12, 2013

Personal perspective

Andover woman tackles health issues in India

As a sophomore at Phillips Academy, lifelong Andover resident Veda Eswarappa had an opportunity to walk the streets of Mumbai, India — a place rich with her family’s heritage.

What she saw changed her life. Now, the 23-year-old hopes to change India in return with a book aimed at tackling the country’s health care issue head on.

Co-authored with writer Sujata Bhatia, “Naturally Based Biomaterials and Therapeutics: The Case of India” seeks to expose the academic world to the topic of biomaterials applied to nations like India.

“If you’re wandering around Mumbai, you’re prone to seeing a lot of people begging or panhandling for money, and a lot of people have visible injuries — wraps around their bodies, open wounds,” Eswarappa said. “You can have world-class, incredible health care. But at the same time, you have people who don’t have access to it, who aren’t getting good care at all.”

Biomaterials, according to Eswarappa, are “any material that’s interacting and interfacing with your body, in a medical kind of way.”

She points to silk as an example. The material can be used as a bandage to cover wounds because of its fabric qualities, she said. But it also possesses unique proteins that can enhance and dramatically improve the healing process, she said.

Eswarappa, who has traveled to India about a half-dozen times to visit family and work with non-governmental organizations, said she has been interested in global health and international development since high school.

As an undergraduate at Harvard University in Cambridge, she took a number of courses further exploring the areas and quickly grew interested in biomaterial applications for the developing world. As she began doing more research, she said she realized there had not been much work done in the area, particularly with a focus on India.

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