Aral Surmeli: Providing Refugees Access to Healthcare

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Ladderworks is a publishing platform of diverse picture books and online curriculum with the mission to empower over a million kids to become social entrepreneurs. Our current series features interviews by our interplanetary journalist Spiffy with inspiring Social Entrepreneurs, Entrepreneurship Ecosystem Builders, and Changemakers who are advancing the UN SDGs.

Spiffy here with the scoop on the entrepreneurial leaders of Planet Earth. As the only interplanetary journalist stationed on this blue planet, I’m thrilled to present this galactic exclusive with Aral Surmeli, the executive director of HERA Digital Health. Let’s learn how Aral is making a positive impact in the world.

Spiffy: Thanks for joining me, Aral! Tell me, what challenge are you addressing through HERA Digital Health?

Aral: Thanks for having me, Spiffy! Being displaced means you lose access to important health services that you normally get in your hometown. Particularly, refugee women and children experience adverse health outcomes, such as access to routine vaccines, care during pregnancy, sexual health needs. We at HERA Digital Health address these issues by helping them navigate the health services in their host communities.

Spiffy: What motivates you to do it?

Aral: I am a medical doctor who has been working in humanitarian aid space for some time. But more personally, I am the son of an internally displaced person, so there is a personal connection with people who have to flee their homes. While doing my work, I saw the extra vulnerability of women ahd children, on top of being a refugee, and it made me focus on their issues.

Spiffy: What is the impact of your work?

Aral: We help refugee women and children access healthcare via their mobile phones. HERA keeps medical records safe and securely, so whenever they see a doctor they can show their medical history. Women can talk to our AI chatbot to receive health information, learn where the closest health center for their needs are, keep track of their children's vaccines, or plan out the pregnancy check up appointments.

Spiffy: Tell me about a recent organization milestone or initiative. What impact does it make on your community?

Aral: We recently rolled out our AI powered chatbot. This bot is designed to answer any questions about sexual and reproductive health of the user, while keeping it culturally relevant. This bot is created to be a “wise old family member“ rather than a healthcare professional, making it easier to chat with. It is helping us learn more about our users needs, while also sharing up to date and relevant information.

Spiffy: Thanks for speaking with me today, Aral—it’s been an honor!

Aral Surmeli, MD, MPH is a professional in the field of global health and public health, with a background in humanitarian aid, and digital health. He co-founded Medical Rescue Association of Turkey and HERA Digital Health. Aral is currently doing his doctoral studies at Johns Hopkins University. (First published on the Ladderworks website on March 20, 2024.)

The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the interviewee and do not necessarily reflect those of Ladderworks LLC.

© 2023 Ladderworks LLC. Edited by Shikha Tandon. Spiffy’s illustration by 
Shreyas Navare. For the Ladderworks digital curriculum to help K-3 kids advance the UN SDGs, visit Spiffy's Launchpad: Creative Entrepreneurship Workshops for K-3 Kids and their caregivers here.

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.


Ladderworks is a publishing platform of diverse picture books and digital curriculum, with the mission to enable over a million kids to become social entrepreneurs.

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