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Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Duke doctor's invention saving women's lives

Posted by on Wed, May 28, 2014 at 9:44 AM

Cheap binoculars, reading glasses, a headband and a pair of battery-power LEDs: That’s all it might take to prevent women from dying of cervical cancer in Haiti.

Over the weekend, The New York Times published an uplifting story about a Duke doctor’s invention that is saving lives of women in Third World countries.

Dr. David Walmer, a fertility specialist, invented the CerviScope, which helps health care providers perform colposcopies to detect cervical cancer. The disease is largely preventable and, when caught early, treatable. Yet it kills 250,000 women a year in the developing world where preventative medicine is scarce.

In a clinical setting, colposcopes are bulky and require electricity, but Walmer’s invention, further honed by master’s students in Duke’s Engineering World Health club, is portable and battery-powered. They hired Applied Technologies, an engineering firm in Cary, N.C., to refine the device so it could be mass-produced, the Times reported.

Bob Malkin, a Duke professor of biomedical engineering who develops medical instruments for third-world hospitals and clinics, started Engineering World Health.

(Small world alert: The company used to have an office in the same building as the INDY. We used to talk with the employees—go-getters who always seemed to be leaving for or just returning from Haiti—in the kitchen while coffee was brewing.)

“Life has a way of detouring,” Walmer told the Times. “Preventing cervical cancer was never my plan. And yet I think this was better than the plan I ever had for my own life.”

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