Once solely a graduate student organization, the Haiti Neurosurgery Initiative, Inc. (HNI) is expanding to include an undergraduate chapter that focuses on promoting awareness for the need of neurosurgeons in Haiti, as well as fundraising for resident neurosurgeons at Emory to travel to Haiti to perform quality neurosurgical care for the population.

According to the organization’s website, HNI “was founded by Emory University neurosurgeons and a dedicated core of like-minded individuals.”

The organization is currently focused on building its framework and base of members, and invites students of diverse interests to join and play a role in HNI’s initiative.

Haiti has a population of about 10.3 million and is still recovering from the effects of the earthquake that struck the nation with a magnitude of 7.0 in 2010. According to HNI, the country has only two neurosurgeons and can’t provide sufficient support for citizens suffering from treatable neurosurgical conditions.

Under the guidance of HNI team member Dr. Nicholas Boulis, associate professor at Emory’s School of Medicine, graduate students in the organization reached out to the graduate community to become involved with this new initiative. In the process, they found more response from the undergraduate community, leading to HNI’s decision to create an undergraduate chapter that would serve as the primary support for the cause.

“We were literally just told that we were presidents of this organization not even a week ago,” College junior and HNI Co-President Somnath Das said.

“The graduate students basically had the idea and they provided the research backbone, to say here’s the problem in Haiti, and here are some statistics to prove it’s a problem. But it’s the undergraduates that will be building from the ground up the roots of the organization,” said Das.

In terms of moving forward, the organization will be planning various fundraising events, including 5K races, banquets and speaker panels of neuroscientists and neurosurgeons. The HNI also plans to host networking nights, volunteer opportunities and exhibit the culture of Haiti through fun activities and events open to all Emory students.

“A lot of our fundraising events will be in collaboration with other student health outreach organizations, so by participating in our group you are also exposed to other student groups and causes that apply to both,” College junior and HNI Co-President Julia Bassell said.

Das added that, “the more people that we have in our organization, the more diverse [the] student body that we build.”

The HNI is meant to provide a meaningful experience for interested students. For Bassell, being involved with the HNI is combining her love of neuroscience, her initiative to help support a cause, her desire to collaborate with other neurosurgeons and to also become more involved on the Emory campus.

For Das, the HNI allows him to pursue his interest in the global distribution of health care to populations in need, as he is able to apply his knowledge and passion for health care to a more global scale.

College freshman Kenny Igarza, who aspires to be a neurosurgeon, says that being involved with the HNI as the public relations officer is significant because it will allow him to see first-hand the impact that his future career has on those that need it, driving forward his passion for the field of neurosurgery and desire to help people in need.