The Language of Healing

Gifts to the Dartmouth College Fund help make great things happen for our students. Here is one of their stories.
Tinotenda Kuretu

Tinotenda Kuretu ’22 is developing a language translation app to facilitate multilingual health care.

After losing his father at the age of five to an easily treatable disease, followed by the loss of other family members under similar circumstances, Tinotenda Kuretu ’22 found himself questioning the factors and realities that shape life’s circumstances. His personal experiences and the social inequalities he was seeing around him made him consider how he could be a part of the solution, whether it was in the areas of health care or economics.

“I attended a rural boarding school in Zimbabwe, and our classroom had electricity. But I saw other students who were attending school under a tree. I had shoes, but many students went to school barefoot. I asked myself, “‘How can I fix this?’”

Kuretu, a Global Health Fellow at the John Dickey Center for International Understanding, is majoring in economics and global health. He knew he wanted to go to school in the United States, and upon completing high school he went to the U.S. Embassy in Harare, where he found out about a State Department-run program called Opportunity Funds which helps students prepare for SATs and apply to U.S. schools. He realized that a smaller school offered the best opportunities for his personal development and applied to Dartmouth.

Shortly after being admitted, Kuretu was invited to participate in Dartmouth’s E. E. Just program that works to increase the number of students from underrepresented groups studying and seeking careers in STEM fields. In his junior year, he became an E. E. Just Fellow and now serves as a mentor to younger students.

“E. E. Just is a real community—of really smart people,” Kuretu says. “You talk to someone, have a conversation, and you realize there’s this amazing thing you didn’t know about. It challenges you and it helps you grow. The research I am doing now at The Dartmouth Institute (for Health Policy and Clinical Practice) perfectly fits what I am interested in—and it wouldn’t have been possible for me without the E. E. Just program.”

Kuretu has received $23,000 in initial funding through the Verizon/Clinton Global Initiative 2021 Social Innovation Challenge to develop a translation application app that helps healthcare providers in the field communicate with patients and staff who speak different languages. Increasingly, physicians administer to patients from different backgrounds, speaking multiple different languages. One of the greatest challenges in designing the app, known as Macaw, is to manage the nuances of spoken language in a cross-cultural way that retains clarity and meaning. Kuretu has partnered with undergraduates at Harvard University and Cottey College on the project through Pora Health, the NGO that he founded in 2020.

He has now set his sights on learning management consulting, and in the long term, he would like to return to Zimbabwe to work in politics, economic development, or health infrastructure. “There are huge problems that are not easy to fix. We need capable people who have the relevant skillset and experience.

“Going to Dartmouth is something I couldn’t have imagined in a million years. I couldn’t have done so without my scholarship—and the family who created it. I hope to someday be able to continue that kind of support for other students.”