Dear Friends of EWH,
After months of careful monitoring of each of our partner countries, as well as the global COVID-19 situation, EWH has been forced to conclude that it will not be safe to run the Summer Institute programs in 2021.
Engineering World Health had fervently hoped to return to our partner hospitals this year. However, the global situation has not significantly improved, and it seems unlikely that our students will have access to vaccines before the programs are set to begin in May. We cannot in good conscience send students to hospitals and homestays without proper protections in place for our partners and for our students.
In addition to safety concerns, international travel remains logistically difficult. Some countries have closed their borders, some are not issuing visas, and others require a 2 week quarantine for all international travelers. Some countries have strict lockdowns in place, making it difficult to navigate in-country. Meanwhile, the U.S. State Department now requires that all travelers returning to the U.S. must have a negative COVID-19 test to re-enter, which could be nearly impossible in countries with limited testing available.
EWH cannot ensure that students would be safe, that students would not inadvertently add stress to the health systems we are trying to support, nor that we could successfully get students to program countries and back again. In light of these considerations, Engineering World Health is cancelling the 2021 Summer Institutes.
Where do we go from here?
First, EWH fully intends to return to Institute programs in the future. Current vaccine forecasts make it likely we will be able to run programs again in January 2022. We believe the in-person experience for students and tangible benefits for hospitals is irreplaceable, and we have every intention to continue running Institute programs once it is safe to do so.
Second, building on last summer's successful Virtual Innovation Exchange and Remote Summer Institute programs, EWH will once again run virtual summer programs. Our virtual programs bring together engineering students from around the world to work and learn in international teams. Each team completes a design project which addresses a health challenge in a low-resource setting.
Finally, EWH is busy developing new ways to improve healthcare delivery in low-income countries. We are seeking new partnerships and brainstorming new approaches.
We thank you for your ongoing support and we look forward to sharing our new efforts with you when the time comes.
Tojan B. Rahhal
CEO & President