Esther Wang, maker of the world’s first medical soft toy, is seeing great response to her creation, Rabbit Ray.
By Esther She
Few childhood experiences are more traumatic than those involving medical procedures, which is why 24-year-old City Harvest Church member Esther Wang has hit the nail on the head with her creation, Rabbit Ray.
For her final year project, the product design graduate from the Nanyang Technological University’s Faculty of Art, Design and Media created a rabbit soft toy that uses the concept of play to explain simple medical procedures to child patients to reduce their anxiety. The project, a collaborative effort with the National University Hospital Child Life Programme, was selected to be on display at NTU’s School of Art, Design and Media Show 2011 last July.
It soon caught the attention of the media, including CNN, and was shortlisted as one of the top 15 contenders for the prestigious James Dyson Award (JDA) Global, an international student design competition based in the UK. Despite not winning, the exposure opened more doors for Wang, among which was the support from the DesignSingapore Council.
Last November, she was also invited to present at the third annual International Arts and Health Conference, an organization that aims to enhance and improve health and well-being in the community through creative activity. It was attended by industry experts and authorities from the UK, USA, Canada and Australia. Rabbit Ray was well-received and drew response from interested parties ranging from safety recommendations to cultural differences in international healthcare.
The opportunity to meet and network with professionals from international hospitals proved an invaluable experience for Wang. She learned the importance of empowering child patients and reaching out to the psychological needs of dying children from Dr Gerri Frager, who has served as the medical director of the Pediatric Palliative Care Service in Canada for the past 16 years.
Wang also made the acquaintance of Dr Peter Spitzer, Australia’s first “clown doctor” and medical director of the Humour Foundation, as they discussed the various pain relief strategies available to child patients and the value these strategies add to the healthcare system.
Wang hopes to commercialize Rabbit Ray one day—currently, she is working on a business plan to obtain funding and also to form a team, after which she will source for a manufacturer and work on product development by collaborating with doctors. In fact, Rabbit Ray may only be the first in a new range of products in the market.
Wang’s journey has been marked with challenges that include surmounting the safety aspect of the design on her own, without much industry knowledge. As Rabbit Ray grows into something larger than just a school project, Wang says it has become a reminder that good design is not just about fame or profit-making: “Good designs change lives by giving people greater independence, thus improving their self-esteem and quality of life,” she says.