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All over the world, reproductive health is suffering because of medical facilities with insufficient or unreliable power. Some mothers are turned away from as many as four or five facilities in a row because capacity is limited by issues like poor lighting and lack of blood storage. In this audio interview, Sheela Sethuraman talks with Laura Stachel and Hal Aronson, co-founders of WE CARE Solar, about their effort to combat this issue worldwide. WE CARE stands for Women’s Emergency Communication and Reliable Electricity.
Starting with an initial prototype built of home solar panels and scrap wood, the two have advanced their distinctive "suitcase design" to a standalone, plug-and-play solar system that is already seeing use in medical facilities in Haiti and Africa. As The Tech Awards 2011 laureates of the Nokia Health Award, Stachel and Aronson discuss the iterative process that brought them to their current design and the challenges of creating a modular device that can see use in profoundly different contexts.
Laura E. Stachel, M.D., M.P.H. the co-founder and medical director of WE CARE Solar, is a board-certified obstetrician-gynecologist with fourteen years of clinical experience, holding an M.D. from University of California, San Francisco and an M.P.H. in Maternal and Child Health from University of California, Berkeley. She is a DrPH candidate at UCB; her dissertation centers on emergency obstetric care in Nigeria. Stachel is the Associate Director of Emergency Obstetric Research in West Africa for the Bixby Center for Population Health and Sustainability. She collaborates with Population Reproductive Health Partnership, and was a co-investigator for a collaborative Population Council study aiming to improving the standard of maternity care in Nigerian state hospitals. She serves on the Editorial Board for the Berkeley Wellness Letter, co-chairs a international working group on Energy and Health for the UN Foundation, and lectures at the UCB School of Public Health.
Hal Aronson, Ph.D., co-founder and technology director of WE CARE Solar, has been teaching renewable energy in the Bay Area and around California for thirteen years. He is co-director of Solar Way Forward, a solar design, education, and consultation firm. He co-created Solar Schoolhouse, bringing solar curriculum to schools throughout California. He also created California Youth Energy Services, a service learning program that now employs one hundred youth a year as energy-efficient retrofitters. Aronson leads professional development workshops, teaches at Solar Richmond and Solar Energy International, and creates project-based learning and curriculum for students of all ages. Hal installed the first legal residential solar electric system in Santa Cruz County (in 1983). He obtained his Ph.D. in environmental sociology from UCSC; his dissertation focused on environmental justice.