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Student & Alumni Achievements

Student & Alumni Achievements

Harvard: For Kids Facing Long Hospital Stays, A Happier ‘Reality’

Ms. Jean Jung was sick as a kid and spent several years in and out of the hospital. She wished she could spend time with other kids, but her parents were worried about her getting an infection, so she wasn’t allowed to roam around the pediatric ward and make friends.

Now Ms. Jung, who’s slated to earn a master of public health in health care management in May from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, is working on a project to help other kids facing long hospital stays connect with each other — through virtual reality (VR) technology.

Since January 2019, Jung and a team of three other Harvard graduate students have been laying the groundwork to launch a nonprofit called Dreamworld VR that will enable pediatric patients to virtually visit others like themselves. Children in pediatric wards with chronic diseases sometimes have to remain isolated for health reasons. Using VR headsets and hand-held controllers, kids would be able to immerse themselves in a colorful, virtual world in which they can design their own “rooms” and “meet” other kids — represented by an avatar like a teddy bear or doll or robot — who are dealing with the same disease.

Currently, pediatric patients at hospitals around the U.S. are testing the prototype, while Ms. Jung explores the possibility of having manufacturers in China create inexpensive, lightweight headsets for kids to use with Dreamworld VR. She and her team hope to launch the nonprofit later this year.

For her own part, Ms. Jung said: “It’s just so lousy to be sick. I’m doing this because I would have wanted something like this when I was a kid.”

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