Image: Fighting Childhood Disease in India

Fulbright Student Aditi Kantipuly Works to End the Loss of Eyesight in Rural India

The World Health Organization (WHO) states the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health is one of the fundamental rights of every human being. Yet for rare disease patients, this right is barely a reality. Of the 350 million people with rare diseases worldwide about 20 percent live in India. U.S. Fulbright Student Aditi Kantipuly, a graduate of Johns Hopkins University, set out to rural India to tackle the challenge of rare ocular diseases among children. 

Quotation from Aditi Kantipuly"Meet Dhivya, pictured above. Dhivya is three years old and, contrary to belief, this picture is not edited. The story behind her beautiful eyes is that she is diagnosed with Wardenburg Syndrome, a rare genetic disorder. She was originally misdiagnosed with childhood glaucoma, which speaks to the difficulty of identifying correct diagnoses for rare diseases in low resource settings.  Dhivya and her family live in a small rural village, about 70 kilometers away from the nearest city." 

As part of her Fulbright scholarship, Aditi worked with the Aravind Eye Care Hospital, the world’s largest eye care provider, to assess the continuum of care for children diagnosed with rare ocular diseases and identifying factors to improve quality of care. "After serving and observing countless patients in rural areas, it became painfully clear that there needed to be better, more proactive mechanisms to prevent children from losing a lifetime of sight to a late diagnosis of rare disorders and diseases like Wardenburg syndrome and congenital glaucoma," said Aditi. In response, Aditi is developing the first mobile application to screen for congenital glaucoma, a low-cost digital tool that will be universally accessible to health providers across rural and urban India. Although developing the mobile application was not included as part of her original Fulbright proposal, it is Aditi's hope that this solution will improve the care and quality of life of for some of the most vulnerable members of society.

Aditi's photograph of Dhivya (above) and her accompanying essay on the impact of her Fulbright experience was the winner of IIE's 2016 Impact Story Contest. More than 360,000 Fulbrighters like Aditi from the United States and other countries have participated in the Program since its inception in 1946. The Fulbright U.S. Student Program is the largest U.S. exchange program offering opportunities for students and young professionals to undertake international graduate study, advanced research, university teaching, and primary and secondary school teaching worldwide. The program currently awards approximately 1,900 grants annually in all fields of study, and operates in more than 140 countries worldwide.