Berkeley Medical Reallocation Initiative sends $1.27M to international hospitals in need

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Ali Farzad /Courtesy

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The new Berkeley Medical Reallocation Initiative, or BMRI, has successfully shipped $1.27 million of surplus medical supplies to countries in need, helping bridge disparities in health care.

Founded by campus juniors Ali Farzad and Garrett Barnett, the nonprofit student group’s goal is to take the extra medical supplies from hospitals in the United States and give the supplies to countries that lack those resources.

The club’s resources this semester were primarily focused on aiding Peru, which has experienced extensive flooding in the past year, according to Farzad, BMRI’s president.

Farzad and Barnett created BMRI in fall 2017, after Seed of Health, another student health nonprofit, was disbanded. According to Farzad, Seed of Health was working to build an ophthalmology clinic in Ethiopia at a time of political unrest, making the group’s work difficult.

“Sadly, things went bad … with the Ethiopian government,” said Barnett, BMRI’s CEO. “They basically tried to con us. Ali and I didn’t want to waste the things we learned from this organization.”

According to Farzad, though BMRI has only been a full-fledged organization for about eight months, it has raised substantial funds by coordinating with local groups and promoting itself in order to send as many shipments of medical supplies as it can.

The group’s current projects include various restaurant fundraisers with vendors such as Chipotle and Little Gem Belgian Waffles. In its most recent project, BMRI hosted a truth-or-dare game in which students paid members to answer questions and fulfill dares.

Additionally, BMRI uses donations from GoFundMe and corporate sponsorships to fund shipments.

“Shipping tends to be our primary cost for the most part,” Farzad said. “We spent $10,000 on shipping, and we were able to ship over $1 million worth of supplies.”

The types of medical supplies sent to hospitals overseas vary from basic equipment, such as medication and walkers, to more expensive items, including hospital beds and surgical equipment, according to Barnett.

“You have to take into account how much more help things like hospital beds can do,” Barnett said. “The biggest thing for us is to see how many people we can touch with the equipment we send out.”

BMRI Chief Technology Officer Roshan Lodha said he joined the club to make a difference in the medical community and to educate himself on the disparities within the medical system.

“The idea that it’s founded on is simple but pretty incredible,” Lodha said. “A lot of what I wanted to study here at Cal and later in life was (how) to bridge health disparities. I thought if I joined, I could make a contribution to medicine.”

Contact Sabrina Dong at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @Sabrina_Dong_.