"I summoned the powers of Meredith Grey and Miranda Bailey," says Dasia Taylor, one of PEOPLE's Teens Changing the World

By Wendy Grossman Kantor
May 14, 2021 12:00 PM
Advertisement
dasia taylor
Credit: Caroline Barker

In AP Human Geography class, Dasia Taylor learned that the leading cause of death in developing countries is post-surgical infections, often from routine surgical procedures — and she knew she had to do something about it.

Striving to find a low-cost, effective way to prevent people from dying, the 17-year-old student created surgical stitches using beet juice, which makes the stitches change color when a wound becomes infected.

"I am not a science genius," Taylor, one of PEOPLE's Teens Changing the World, says in this week's issue. "Beets are a natural indicator, they change color when the pH changes."

Her hope is that the stitches will be used to close wounds in developing countries, and then if they change color, a patient will know to immediately seek medical care.

"People die," says the senior at Iowa City West High School. "I had a solution."

An avid Grey's Anatomy fan who is passionate about social justice and equity work, Taylor says she didn't know a beaker from a flask when she began working in the lab. Still, she was determined to make her vision happen.

"I knew that I had this calling to create these stitches," she says. "I summoned the powers of Meredith Grey and Miranda Bailey as I was in my lab space. And I was like, 'I can do hard things.'"  

For more Teens Changing the World, pick up the latest issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday, or subscribe here.

She completed her research on Valentine's Day 2020, and began entering local and state science fairs. Taylor became a finalist at the Regeneron Science Talent Search, a national competition that challenges young scientists to develop ideas that could solve society's most urgent challenges. Her peers selected Taylor to receive the Seaborg Award, allowing her to speak on behalf of the class of 2021 at the awards ceremony.

RELATED VIDEO: Meet Two of PEOPLE's 2021 Teens Changing the World

"I knew that it was going to do something great," Taylor says.

Now, she's patenting her invention, and trying to set up commercial lab space before starting college, where she hopes to major in political science.

"I have to continue my research. These stitches literally will revolutionize wound treatment in developing countries," she says. "I'm definitely not stopping until my stitches get to those who need them."