NYU Steinhardt News

Alumni Spotlight: Danielle Butin Creates Foundation to Reduce Waste at Home and Promote Health Abroad

Butin graduated from NYU Steinhardt with a BS in Occupational Therapy in 1985.  She was drawn to Occupational Therapy because of its holistic approach to disabilities; pairing clinical expertise with individualized evaluation and intervention.  After graduating, Butin worked for many years as an occupational therapist serving older adults and later went on to complete her MPH at Columbia University.  She is now Founder and Executive Director of Afya Foundation, a medical supply recovery organization launched in 2007.  Since its inception, Afya has partnered with 56 countries around the world; shipped $26,000,000 worth of medical and humanitarian supplies to high-need locations; and diverted 6,000,000 lbs. of usable materials from American landfills or waste incinerators.  In addition to her leadership role at Afya, Butin has an extensive publication record, teaches at Columbia University and provides healthcare consultancy services.  

Afya’s strategy is to repurpose existing material and human resources to address unmet need on a global scale; and the foundation has multiple levels of engagement.  Members of the NYU community who would like to support these efforts may join theLuggage for Life Program, which allows travelers to bring critically needed supplies to Afya’s partner clinics and hospitals throughout the world.  Luggage for Life participants receive a 50-lb. duffle bag of medical supplies and a custom clearance letter to transport to a pre-determined location.  Over 260 travelers have brought 13,000 lbs. of supplies to countries throughout Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean since the program began in 2011.  

Butin offers the following advice to students interested in having a positive impact internationally.  “You have to build competency with the basics, hone skills through independent and collaborative practice, and figure out what you can offer before you attempt to engage issues of healthcare, economics or basic needs in a foreign context.  Start small and begin your practice at home in consultation with mentors. Then stretch, take risks, and put yourself in situations where you can apply your knowledge.”