Anna Wexler, Graduate Student, MIT Program in Science, Technology and Society, Freelance Writer and Filmmaker

Fallback Image About Anna Wexler Anna Wexler is freelance writer (specializing in science and travel) and documentary filmmaker who is currently pursuing her Ph.D. in Science, Technology, and Society at MIT, where she is studying the social and ethical implications of brain machine interfaces. She earned dual Bachelors of Science degrees in Brain and Cognitive Science, and Humanities and Science, with a focus in Writing, from MIT in 2007. Wexler specializes in science and medical writing.   She wrote and produced an exclusive magazine about the brain, Gray Matters, for the Hebrew University.  Wexler writes regularly for the Hebrew University, Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, IDC Herzliya, University of Haifa, Bar-Ilan University, CogniFit, and others.  Her writing and accompanying photography have been published in magazines (MaximOvernight Buses18, GlimpseBudget TravelMir Afishu), books (Best Travel Writing Vol 9. — 2012, Best Women’s Travel Writing 2011, It All Changed in an Instant: More Six-Word Memoirs by Writers Famous & Obscure, A Stingray Bit My Nipple: True Stories from Real Travelers) and online (Unpious, WGBH Lab,, Glimpse Online,  As a student, Wexler interned at WGBH’s NOVA, where she researched and edited science-related stories for national broadcast on PBS.  Wexler also completed an internship at the Harvard University Office of News and Public Affairs, where she profiled prominent scientists for Harvard’s website. Wexler garnered five writing awards while she was a student at MIT. In addition to her writing work, Wexler is also a documentary filmmaker. She was selected as a 2007-2008 filmmaker-in-residence at WGBH for her feature-length documentary, Unorthodox. The film, which she is co-directing and co-producing along with fellow filmmaker Nadja Oertelt, follows three rebellious Orthodox Jewish high school teenagers through a transformative post-high school year in Israel.  The film has been awarded nine grants and in January 2012, the filmmakers completed a successful Kickstarter campaign to raise finishing funds. Check out the Unorthodox website, and Facebook and Twitter. In 2005, Wexler and Oertelt co-directed and co-produced “A Piece of Cake,” a short video about a date gone wrong.  “A Piece of Cake” went on to win Cambridge University’s Cinecam 48 Hours Film Festival (2005) and the Chris Pomiecko Prize (2006).  In 2007, Wexler co-produced and co-directed “Spice Cream,” which documented several MIT students extracting capsaicin from chile peppers and using it to create a new ice cream flavor.  “Spice Cream” went on to win second prize in MIT’s TechTV video competition. Wexler spent five years conducting scientific research at various neuroscience labs, including those at MIT, Harvard University, Cambridge University, and the University of Iowa.  She has worked on projects relating to Theory of Mind reasoning, moral cognition, prosopagnosia, the neural and psychophysical effects of meditation, and causal learning in preschoolers.  Most recently, she investigated the neural basis of point-of-view perception in film.  Wexler’s extensive neuroscience research has resulted in two awards, several abstracts, an election to the Sigma Xi Scientific Research Society, and publications in Neuropsychologia (2005) and Brain Research Bulletin (2011). One of Wexler’s greatest passions is adventure travel.  At the age of eighteen, Wexler purchased a one-way ticket to Katmandu.  She spent the next month trekking through the Himalayas to Mount Everest and the remainder of the year traveling throughout Asia.  Wexler has embarked on numerous self-funded and self-planned trips, including a motorcycle tour of remote Northern Vietnam, a journey on the Tran Siberian Railroad, a solo bicycle journey across Mexico, and a month-long trek on Turkey’s southwest coast. (Photographs and info about many of her trips are available here.) Wexler is involved with the New England Chapter of the Explorers Club, where she helps organize events (such as an entomophagy tasting session) and gives the occasional talk about exploration. In the summer of 2013 Wexler launched The Travel Scholar, a travel consulting site that offers miles award bookings, one-on-one miles tutorials, and general travel consultations. Wexler enjoys working with other forms of media.  In 2004, she co-hosted a weekly radio show on Boston’s 88.1 WMBR that featured live in-studio jazz performances.  In 2007, Wexler co-narrated a tour of Frank Gehry’s Stata Center for Untravel Media, the mobile media documentary series.  She was a member of the Boston art collective the New Factographers, where she helped direct the multimedia fashion show Paradosaurus Wreck. Wexler currently serves as a member of MIT’s Educational Council and is on the Board of Directors for the Kathmandu-based Sattya Media Arts Collective.  She used to be a professional fire performer (poi, hula hoop, breathing) and has performed at dozens of events worldwide. Medical Travel Today (MTT): As an extensive traveler, how would you guide a patient who falls ill and needs special medical attention while traveling? Anna Wexler (AW): On my recent trip, I personally got sick and needed medical attention. Before traveling to Tanzania, I was in Israel for a week and found a healthcare clinic specifically for travelers. Israel practices socialized healthcare, so the clinic I came across was private, however they did have a few local patients, and of course, tourists being treated as well. MTT: How did you find the clinic? AW: I searched online for a reputable clinic and came across the one I visited. Generally, I always check guidebooks, as well, because they have a better understanding of which clinics accept travelers. Before I was able to seek treatment, I had to call my health insurance company – Blue Cross Blue Shield (BCBS), Massachusetts. The overall process, in terms of coverage, was very confusing as far as what the insurance company was willing to cover and what they were not going to pay. BCBS had a list of a few doctors they had developed relationships with in the past, but in my particular situation I needed to visit an urgent care clinic, which is why I ended up researching clinics online. MTT: Luckily, Israel has a particularly advanced healthcare system. If you had gotten sick in a more remote part of the world, what would you have done to seek treatment? AW: I have stayed in some very remote places, and it’s tough. It depends on how sick you really are. In some locations, there are hot spots for clinics. For example, I’d been traveling in Nepal, and I found a clinic in the guide book that has great quality Western medicine, so I felt really comfortable going there. However, there are definitely some locations where it is a challenge to find quality healthcare. MTT: Are language barriers often an issue? AW: Yes, absolutely. Previously, I found language barriers when I had to go to a doctor in a very small town for something minor. In fact, I actually travel with antibiotics now to avoid this issue. In the past, I can specifically recall major language barriers in India and Thailand, where nobody at either location spoke English. MTT: As an American citizen and as a traveler, what is your impression of the U.S. healthcare system versus anywhere else in the world? AW: I spent a year living in the United Kingdom, and four years living in Israel. I can best compare the U.S. healthcare system to healthcare in these two specific locations, rather than compare travel clinics around the world. As far as availability goes, in Israel it is much easier to make an appointment – you just schedule one yourself online. A little bit of travel may be involved, but there is always access to care. There are no secretaries, or office staff; the patients wait by the doctor’s door and are seen at the time of their scheduled appointment. The healthcare system in the United Kingdom is similar, as well. I lived in the United Kingdom during 2005-2006, so I wasn’t scheduling appointments online then, but it was very easy to make an appointment, show up and be seen by the doctor at your appointed time. In the United States, where it is very difficult to be seen by a doctor, patients sometimes have to wait weeks for appointments. MTT: There is a lot of criticism around healthcare reform, and the ways it mimics the current healthcare model in Massachusetts. Have you found that there is a major wait time for primary and specialty care appointments in Massachusetts? AW: Not for me personally, but that is only because I am a student at MIT. If I am sick, or in need of a physician’s care, I utilize the University’s onsite healthcare facility. MTT: What advice do you have for travelers? AW: First and foremost, I would recommend traveling with insurance. It is important to find out if your current provider covers travel, and if so, what expenses they cover. Often times travel insurance can be really worth it. I always have travel insurance when I am on the road. In some circumstances, the travel insurance won’t cover a certain activity, and in this case, it is important to purchase extra insurance. To find different types of travel insurance, I use a website called World Nomads.

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