ECU engineering student spends summer repairing medical equipment in Uganda

Rolando Rosado returned to East Carolina University this fall with perspective from a summer spent helping people and saving lives.

The junior engineering student participated in the Engineering World Health program in which he and team members spent two months repairing and maintaining medical equipment in the East African country of Uganda.

ECU engineering student Rolando Rosado, center, works on equipment as part of the Engineering World Health program in Uganda. (Contributed photo)

“The experience was astonishing and a definite life-changer that has given me a positively new perspective regarding everyday life,” Rosado said.

He said the reality of Uganda did not match his expectation.

“Despite the typical perception of an African country, the people of Uganda are happy and they have a higher financial status that can be contradicting to the perception of foreigners,” Rosado said.

Still, the mostly agricultural country lacks the resources that more developed countries have, Rosado said, making his mission to Uganda to support health care crucial.

“The program really enlightened me of how resources are readily available in the United States of America but are not in Uganda,” he said. “In many cases when working in a low-resource medical setting, improvising is required and often bears a challenge due to the shortage of resources.”

That made teamwork essential.

“The performance among our team was excellent, and the bonds among the people of our team have grown to lasting friendships,” Rosado said.

Rosado said communication with the Ugandan people proved difficult at times.

“Many of the people of Uganda do speak basic English but not very fluently, and I do not speak Luganda fluently, the local language,” he said.

Despite the challenges, Rosado said he and the team successfully made medical equipment repairs that he knows made a difference.

“Helping their society thrive while saving lives by increasing the longevity of the hospital equipment was the biggest reward,” he said.

When not working, Rosado said he was able to enjoy the culture of the country and tour cities and sites including Lake Victoria, Africa’s largest lake and one of Uganda’s most recognizable natural features.

“The Ugandan culture is beautiful, and by learning the culture more extensively, I have realized my newly found support for the Ugandan people,” Rosado said.

He said the classes he took as part of the electrical concentration in ECU’s engineering program helped prepare him for his work in Uganda. Eventually, Rosado would like to start his own engineering avionics company.

Though originally from Buffalo, Rosado transferred to ECU after attending a community college.

“When ECU representatives visited my community college, I was very impressed with what they presented about their engineering program,” he said. “I did further research about the institution and concluded that they have an affordable tuition that provides a good education and will allow me to acquire a job after graduation due to their good reputation for post-grad job acquirement.”

Created in 2001 by two engineering professors, Engineering World Health is a nonprofit organization that engages the skills and passions of students and professionals from around the globe to improve health care in low-income countries, according to the group’s website. Program participants have supported health care in 14 countries, including Uganda, Guatemala and Nepal this summer.

ECU’s engineering program offers an undergraduate degree with concentrations in biomedical, bioprocess, electrical, environmental, industrial and systems, or mechanical engineering. Master’s degrees are offered in biomedical and mechanical engineering.