The New York Times Magazine offers up a healthy dose of inspiration this weekend with the story of David Walmer, a renegade doctor who's been saving lives in Haiti. When he realised a few years ago how cervical cancer was killing many of his patients, Walmer decided to get creative about solving the problem. Oddly enough, supermarket giant Walmart was part of the solution.
Aptly labelled by The Times as "The MacGyver Cure for Cancer," Walmer's invention is now known as the CerviScope. It's a cheap, portable version of a colposcope that enables doctors to examine a woman's cervix for signs of cancer. However, until Walmer came along, these devices were too expensive and required electricity, both deal breakers for a medical device to be viable in the developing world.
What's a good solution when things are too expensive? Walmart, of course—or at least a sense on Walmart-enabled ingenuity. Walmer says that his first prototypes started with "a halogen headlamp [found] at a bike shop and a green filter [found] at a camera store." One of Walmer's volunteer engineers from Duke took it a stage further by increasing the device's magnification powers using "the lenses from a $10 (£6) set of binoculars bought at Walmart" along with "a pair of $16 (£9.50) battery-powered LEDs."
Walmer's nonprofit, Family Health Ministries, is still perfecting the CerviScopes design and are getting close to bringing the price below £445, at which point they think it'll be viable in countries like Haiti. It's unlikely the parts for the production run will come from Walmart, even the prototypes are helping save lives. MacGyver had to start somewhere, right? [NYTM]
Images via Family Health Ministries