Jeff Hsu – Technical Founder of Mobilizing Health

UC Berkeley, Berkeley, CA

Life has taught me a few things in the last 21 years: 1) always forget regret, for life is yours to miss 2) life is too short not to pursue your dreams and 3) Taiwanese food is the best. I cannot emphasize that last point enough.

Who are you?

I am Jeff Hsu, a 21 year old Taiwanese American from Rowland Heights, California. Once a chubby kid, I grew up speaking Taiwanese with my grandmother, eating shaved ice, and drinking boba. I love Taiwan and America and am happy to have the best of both worlds. I am currently a 4th year Electrical Engineering and Computer Science undergraduate at UC Berkeley. I am passionate about two things: engineering new technologies that can make this world a better place for our future, and creating music that can move people’s hearts. My biggest fear is absolute boredom. I get restless easily, and am always in need of a new adventure. I am Taiwanese American, but I hate taro. If I could have dinner with anyone, it would be with Kaskade, Nelson Mandela, the Oracle from the Matrix, and Jay Chou. I firmly believe in trying everything at least once. In my free time, I enjoy playing piano and tennis, making music, swing dancing, and rock climbing.

My past adventures include working at Apple on the chip inside of the iPhone 4 and the iPad, and founding the technology behind a non-profit organization, Mobilizing Health, that provides free healthcare advice to rural villagers from licensed doctors through text messages. Current adventures I am undertaking involve tutoring prison inmates in basic math at the San Quentin State Prison in Northern California, training for a handful of triathlons, creating electronic music, and conducting research on energy-efficient technologies for buildings.

Life has taught me a few things in the last 21 years: 1) always forget regret, for life is yours to miss 2) life is too short not to pursue your dreams and 3) Taiwanese food is the best. I cannot emphasize that last point enough.

Tell us about your organization / project, your role, and its impact?

In March 2010, I was approached by the founder of Mobilizing Health and asked to create the SMS technology behind her organization. While all of my colleagues were looking for tech internships in Silicon Valley, I was interested in doing something more fulfilling than sitting in a cubicle all day.  A chance to help the world and travel to India for the summer? Sounds awesome, I thought! After three months of long nights of programming in Berkeley, my team and I brought the technology to India and got to work. We toiled around the entire country. Starting in Mumbai, we looked for SMS companies to collaborate with. We then went to Udaipur to persuade licensed doctors to join our program. We spent weeks driving to villages convincing people to adopt Mobilizing Health as a hub for healthcare information. After nearly getting deported because of visa issues, we took a twelve-hour overnight train ride to New Delhi to convince the government to let us stay for another month to get our program off the ground. This was probably the most intense summer of my life.

What does Mobilizing Health aim to do, you ask? Well, more than six million people die annually from treatable diseases in India (and many more in other developing countries), mainly due to the lack of access to medical professionals; there are only ten physicians per 100,000 people in rural areas in India. Our mission is to utilize our web-based technology – driven by inexpensive text messages – in order to connect licensed doctors and nurses to these medically underserved masses of rural villages. My technology currently provides free, first-aid preventative healthcare advice to people in fifty different villages bordering the city of Udaipur in Rajasthan, India, and we continue to expand.

Where do you find your inspiration and motivation as a student leader?

For the longest time, failure was my biggest fear. Then I realized, one day, that we have a limited time here on Earth to do what our hearts guide us to do. And of course, obstacles will always arise, but nothing worth doing ever comes easy, and what doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger, better, and smarter. And really, what can’t you do with the support of good friends and great family in one of the freest countries in the world? You can do this. Don’t become old without giving your dreams a shot at success.

What is your vision for the organization / project and the role that it may play in the broader community?

Every kid deserves a shot at life. Unfortunately, most people in rural regions of developing nations, especially kids, have no access to healthcare. Private doctors just don’t have any incentive to treat patients in the rural areas of India, and government hospitals are frequently too overwhelmed to give good service. Because of this, even the diseases that we consider benign here in America can put a Indian family in jeopardy. My vision for Mobilizing Health is that it can further expand to third world countries other than India to at least provide a simple form of free preventative first-aid healthcare to underserved villagers using new, emerging technologies. By achieving this, the parents of families can remain healthy enough to take care of their children, and most importantly, the children can grow up healthy and strong enough to pursue their goals and dreams. The future of every third world country depends on its youth, and good health for kids can lead to a reduction in poverty and ultimately, a better society.

Why are you proud to be of Taiwanese heritage?

I am a 2nd generation Taiwanese American. Coming to America from Taiwan with close to nothing, my parents taught me the importance of hard work and kindness. Growing up in America has taught me to pursue my dreams and goals. I am proud to be a Taiwanese American, because I am blessed with the best of two awesome worlds.

What does the future of Taiwanese America look like to you?

While I am specifically Taiwanese American, I believe that the Asian American community must work together as a whole to establish our identity in the United States. The absence of Asian Americans in the media, especially in music and film, is a bit startling, considering the ever-present talent in the Asian American community. We bring richness to the American melting pot of diversity. However, I am optimistic that, with time, we will be able to strengthen our community’s identity through unity and hard work.

Any additional information you would like to share?

I hope to become a Professor in Computer Science and a world famous electronic music artist someday!

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