Respiratory problems are a major cause of death and disability throughout the world.  Three of the ten most prevalent causes of mortality — lower-respiratory infections (LRIs), chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and tuberculosis (TB) — are lung-related.  Asthma and other respiratory problems account for a substantial and growing number of hospital visits each year.  Moreover, these diseases differentially affect the poor: LRIs are the leading cause of death in low-income countries – killing more than HIV and malaria combined. The HPN Project is a comprehensive effort to address these critical global health needs.


In 2004 on a trip to Guatemala with Marquette University students, Dr. Lars Olson of Marquette’s Department of Biomedical Engineering  observed the need for a low-cost nebulizer firsthand.  He learned that many children of means in Guatemala City used nebulizers when they had respiratory problems, but when he visited poor families in the rural altiplano, where lung problems were even more prevalent, there were no nebulizers to be found.  After spending time with rural healthcare workers, Dr. Olson identified two explanations for the lack of nebulizers:  first, the poor in these areas could not afford nebulizers, and second, they didn’t have electricity to power one.

Upon returning to Marquette, Dr. Olson began developing the Human Powered Nebulizer, a nebulizer compressor that is low-cost and doesn’t require electricity.  Several years later, and thanks to the contributions of many undergraduate biomedical engineering students and a growing network of professional collaborators, lab tests and our first clinical trials have demonstrated that the HPN is equivalent to electric nebulizers.



Lars E. Olson, Ph.D. is the Interim Chair and an Associate Professor of Biomedical Engineering at Marquette University.  Dr. Olson trained in a multi-disciplinary program in Pulmonary Medicine and Biomedical Engineering at Vanderbilt University.  His research interests include cardiovascular and respiratory physiology, distributed computing, and global health.  He has participated in several international academic programs in Guatemala, El Salvador, and South Africa.



M. Therese Lysaught, Ph.D. is a Professor at the Institute of Pastoral Studies and Neiswanger Institute for Bioethics/Stritch School of Medicine at Loyola University Chicago.  A nationally-recognized expert in the area of medical ethics, she brings to the project significant experience in research ethics — serving for three years as a member of the Recombinant DNA Advisory Committee of the National Institutes of Health — and the role of community health workers in the use of appropriate medical technologies. Her research has taken her to El Salvador and Haiti.





Christopher J. Hallberg is a distinguished alumnus of Marquette University.  Graduating in 2009, he received a Fulbright Fellowship to return to El Salvador and continue research he began as an undergraduate.  During his Fulbright year, he organized focus groups to evaluate local responses to the HPN and established partnerships with the Ministry of Health and international health NGOs.  Chris’ varied areas of expertise — global health, sociology, engineering — have proved invaluable to the project.  Chris began his medical studies at the University of Washington School of Medicine beginning in August 2012, focusing on global health.





Clara Villatoro worked as a journalist for El Salvador’s most prestigious newspaper, La Prensa Gráfica, for three years in the area of public health. Clara finished her master’s degree from the Universidad del País Vasco/Euskal Herriko Unibertsitatea in Spain during 2009.  She currently works as the Director of Communications for Santa Clara University’s international service learning programs in El Salvador and the Philippines.  She continues her work as a journalist, writing economics reports from Central America for a Colombian magazine.  Clara has assisted with our interviews with Salvadoran community health workers and has played a key role in building our successful relationships with our valued colleagues in El Salvador.


Mara C. Schwartz graduated cum laude from Marquette University in 2007 with a degree in Biomedical Engineering.  At Marquette, she co-oped for Depuy Orthopedics for 3 years and was also on the founding board of the MU chapter of Engineer’s Without Borders.  With EWB, she joined a trip to Guatemala to implement a solar power water system. During her senior year, she helped lead one of the HPN senior design projects.  Since graduation, she has been working at Gauthier Biomedical, a leading orthopedic instrumentation company. She is currently the Quality Manager and oversees the entire quality system, ensuring that all applicable national and international standards and regulations are being met.  Mara brings broad knowledge of risk management, regulatory requirements and design documentation to the HPN team.