Biomedical Engineer Recognized for Dedication to Equality, Education, and Empowerment
Gladys Saruchera ’21 M.S. is dedicated to ensuring quality healthcare for everyone and to sharing her passion for the STEM fields with low-income students in her home country of Zimbabwe.
November 30, 2020
By Renee Chmiel, Office of Marketing and Communications
Gladys Saruchera ’21 M.S. has always been passionate about ensuring access to low-cost, high quality healthcare for everyone, especially in low-income communities. She believes developing effective, affordable medical devices and therapies is critical to providing excellent healthcare.
While working in the medical devices industry after completing her undergraduate degree in chemical engineering, she realized furthering her education in other areas of engineering would enable her to make an even greater impact. She began pursuing her master’s degree in biomedical engineering at the University of New Haven to do just that.
Saruchera’s dedication has recently been recognized by the American Association of University Women (AAUW), which empowers women and girls through research, education, and advocacy. The organization awarded her an International Fellowship.
“I was overwhelmed with joy and gratitude,” she said. “I am a first-generation college graduate, and I wouldn’t have made it this far without professors and other women engineers who have taken time to mentor and encourage me. The AAUW fellowship removes the financial barrier between me and my dreams, and it extends my network of trailblazing women who are changing the world and willing to extend the gift of mentorship and inspiration to me.”
‘Make the world a better place’
Award recipients pursue academic work and lead innovative community projects designed to empower women and girls. Saruchera has been devoted to advancing education and fostering equality in her home country of Zimbabwe, where students in low income school districts have less access to educational resources – especially in the science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields.
“Our fellows and grantees have a long and distinguished history of contributing to their schools, their communities, and to society at large,” said Kim Churches, chief executive officer of AAUW. “Even in today’s challenging times, we know that this year’s recipients will continue in that esteemed tradition. AAUW is proud to provide the support they need to excel in their academic work – and to ultimately make the world a better place.”
Saruchera is involved with the organization STEM Excel, which provides access to free afterschool programs for high school students in Dzivarasekwa, a low-income neighborhood in Harare, the capital of her home country. She endeavors to narrow the disparity in graduation rates between students in lower income schools and those with access to more resources.
“We are working towards expanding our programs to include more students,” she said. “We strive to make sure that no potential is lost because of financial limitations.”
‘Hands on and very practical’
As part of an individual research project, Saruchera is evaluating the regulatory framework guiding the importation and approval of medical devices used in Zimbabwe. She plans to propose regulatory standards to ensure patient safety by identifying and eliminating unsafe medical devices.
“I like that the biomedical engineering program at the University is hands on and very practical,” she said. “The statistical analysis skills I developed have helped me collect and analyze data. My professors are supportive of our unique and individual goals, and the department chair has been supportive of my individual project – research that I am not doing for academic credit.”
Saruchera has been making a meaningful impact as a member of the University and the surrounding communities. During her internship with Medtronic, a medical device company in North Haven, Conn., she collaborated with the manufacturing engineering projects team to improve the quality and efficiency of the surgical suture production process.
Through her work with the company, she began volunteering with Junior Achievement of Southwest New England, a Connecticut-based organization that promotes work-readiness, entrepreneurship, and financial literacy skills among kids and works to inspire them to reach their potential.
‘The launchpad for your dreams’
Saruchera is part of the National Society for Black Engineers, and she worked with the People Investing in People Foundation last year to mentor high school students in Ghana and encourage their interest in STEM. She is also treasurer of the University’s African Graduate Student Association, and she serves as a global student leader with the University’s International Students Office.
Saruchera’s goal is to develop and manufacture low-cost, highly effective medical devices to help treat and diagnose the many diseases that affect patients around the world. She’s grateful that the fellowship will support her mission, and she encourages her classmates to apply for the AAUW’s fellowships and grants.
“The fellowship is a great way to connect with a network of women doing amazing work to change the world in unique ways,” she said. It will provide support as you pursue your master’s degree, and it will encourage you to expand your horizons and support other women. It could be the launchpad for your dreams.”