Most of us have seen a pulse oximeter in hospitals—it’s the small device, only an inch or two long, that the nurse clips on your fingertip to measure your blood oxygen level. Muhammad Zaman’s version isn’t nearly as sleek, but it may change the face of global health care.
Designed for health workers in rural Zambia, Zaman’s pulse oximeter is a clunky white block about the size of a computer mouse, molded from thick plastic and about as stylish as a pair of nurses’ shoes. But when compared to the standard American hospital-grade oximeter, it’s is a marvel of durability and function. It’s cheap, sturdy, and as he likes to say, “Zambia-ready.”
“These may not be the coolest, cutting-edge devices,” says Zaman, a College of Engineering associate professor of biomedical engineering. “They’re not, and they aren’t supposed to be. We are concerned about very basic problems.” Namely, how to save a million children a year from dying of pneumonia. More often than not for the developing world, you need the Doc Martens, not the Manolo Blahniks.