People to Know 2015: Niki Mani
Niki Mani had a vision: provide underserved members of her California community with free eye treatments and preventative care. So she founded the nonprofit Stop Diabetic Blindness.
The idea grew out of Niki’s experience as a volunteer at her father’s ophthalmology clinic, where she saw many patients with diabetes develop eye complications simply because they could not afford the necessary care to treat and prevent them. Since founding the organization two years ago, Niki has helped improve the preventative care and treatment of countless people in Chula Vista and San Diego counties who live in poverty and suffer from, or are at risk for, diabetes eye complications.
What makes Niki’s journey even more admirable is that she has run this nonprofit successfully since her sophomore year of high school. As someone who founded a nonprofit myself, I know how much energy it takes to get one off the ground and to keep it afloat. The fact that Niki, now a freshman at Stanford University, achieved this amidst her studies and college preparations is admirable, to say the least. It takes passion, grit, and talent to found and head a young nonprofit, and Niki has them in spades.
The United States is considered a developed nation, but it faces many of the same challenges as developing countries in delivering quality and effective preventative care and treatment of diabetes and diabetes-related complications, such as retinopathy. Niki, through Stop Diabetic Blindness, reminds us of how much work we have to do in improving preventative health care in our own backyards.
Jason Baker, MD, is an endocrinologist at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York City with type 1 diabetes. After meeting a young Ugandan woman who later passed away from complications of type 1 diabetes, he founded Marjorie’s Fund, a nonprofit that helps empower people living in poor areas of the world to live long lives with type 1 diabetes. Read more about him at diabetesforecast.org/jasonbaker.