For more information:

Contact: Melany Ethridge (972) 267-1111, melany@alarryross.com

Or: Kate Etue (615) 481-8420 (m)

NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE, July 14, 2014 – Former U.S. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, M.D., founder of Hope Through Healing Hands, and Melinda Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, today, led a community conversation on “The Mother & Child Project: Simple Steps to Saving Lives in the Developing World,” on the campus of Belmont University.

This was the first public event held by the Faith-Based Coalition for Healthy Mothers and Children Worldwide, a joint partnership of Hope Through Healing Hands (HTHH), a Nashville-based global health organization, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

More than 250 individuals representing the faith community, global health NGO and higher-education sectors throughout greater Nashville attended the discussion, hosted by Belmont University. U.S. Olympic figure skating champion Scott Hamilton, who with his wife Tracie is an active global health advocate, moderated the event.

“As I began to talk with women around the world, it became very clear to me the spacing and timing of pregnancies we take for granted in the U.S. is a matter of life and death for them,” said Gates. “So I got very involved in contraceptives, because it truly starts the cycle of life, where they can feed their children, get their children in school, and honestly, not die themselves.”

Sen. Frist agreed, saying, “Contraception is a pro-life cause.” He went on to explain that, “…if you delay first pregnancy to 18 years old, you can increase survival in countries where 1 in 39 women die in childbirth, and cut the chance of children dying by 30 percent, enabling them to stay in school and become productive members of families.”

“Second, if you can push out the interval between pregnancies to three year period, the child is twice as likely to survive the newborn stage.”

Today, more than 200 million women in developing countries want the ability to plan if and when they become pregnant, but lack access to information about planning their families. Increasing access to a range of contraceptive options, and providing women with the ability to time and space their births is critical to improving the health of mothers and children.

At the event, Gates reflected on her upbringing in Dallas, Texas, where she attended Catholic parochial school from grades K-12, and confirmed she remains a practicing member of the Catholic Church. While Gates recognizes the tension between her work and the Church’s position on contraceptives, she has found common ground on healthy timing and spacing of pregnancies, even though organizations embrace different tools to achieve it.

Sen. Frist expressed his support for Melinda’s efforts, explaining that the Faith-based Coalition for Healthy Mothers and Children Worldwide has a critical role to play in engaging members of the faith community to help disseminate this simple message.

He likened this initiative to a similar movement of Americans in 2002 that shared a vision with houses of worship across all faiths, which lead to the support and eventual funding of PEPFAR, the largest health initiative in history that turned the tide on the HIV/AIDS. 

“The millions of people dying of HIV/AIDS worldwide led to a major U.S. tax-payer led movement to save lives, resulting in more than what is now 12.9 million individuals currently on anti-retroviral medicine,” he said, noting we can do it again on what is becoming another global pandemic, saving over 287,000 women’s lives each year. 

The Faith Based Coalition on Healthy Mothers and Children Worldwide’s mission is to galvanize support among faith leaders across the U.S. on the issues of maternal, newborn and child health in developing countries. The coalition will place a particular emphasis on the  benefits of healthy timing and spacing of pregnancies, including access to a range of contraceptive options, in alignment with its members’ unifying values and religious beliefs. 

Several faith leaders already involved in this issue also participated in the program by echoing their support of this new initiative.  “The best way to see change in Africa is to change the lives of African mothers,” said Steve Taylor, recording artist and filmmaker.

Jena Lee Nardella, co-founder with Jars of Clay of Blood:Water Mission, shared their experience in the global fight against HIV/AIDS.  “We were inspired not by the statistics, but by the compelling stories.  As a Church, let’s not forget to tell the story, but make it personal.”

Mike Glenn, pastor of Brentwood Baptist Church, added, “The Evangelical church is often accused of loving the child and not the mother; but in doing so, we lose God’s mosaic.  We believe in ‘Imago Dei,’ the dignity of every human being.”

“It all comes down to the mother and child nexus and the healthy timing and spacing of births,” Sen. Frist concluded. 

Information about members of who have joined the coalition to date, as well as how others can help, is available at http://www.hopethroughhealinghands.org/faith-based-coalition.  Endorsements for the Coalition are available at http://www.hopethroughhealinghands.org/endorsements.

Hope Through Healing Hands is a Nashville-based 501(C) 3 nonprofit with a mission to promote improved quality of life for citizens and communities around the world using health as a currency for peace.  Sen. Bill Frist, M.D., is the founder and chard of the organization, and Dr. Jenny Eaton Dyer, Ph.D., is the CEO/Executive Director.

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Note to editors: For more information, visit http://www.alarryross.com/newsroom/hope-through-healing-hands-2/.

Originally published in The Tennessean

Philanthropist Melinda Gates said she never imagined growing up in a devout Catholic household in Dallas that she would one day lead a global effort to promote family planning and contraceptives in the developing world.

"I wrestled with my faith," said Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, speaking in front of a Belmont University audience. "I absolutely needed to talk with my parents, my children. I wrestled with my own use of contraception, about which I am very public."

But it was ultimately her faith — including the Catholic Church's longstanding commitment to aiding people in poverty — and being a firsthand witness to the hardships of mothers as she traveled in Africa and Asia with her then-fiance Bill Gates that led her to join an effort to address the need for women to decide when and whether to have children.

The Gates' foundation has partnered with former Sen. Bill Frist and his Nashville-based global health organization Hope Through Healing Hands. Together, they created the Faith-Based Coalition for Healthy Mothers and Children Worldwide, whose mission is to spur faith leaders across the country to get involved in maternal and child health in the developing world.

On Monday they brought their message to Belmont, speaking to an audience of pastors, health experts and Nashville Christian musicians including Amy Grant and Steve Taylor.

Frist acknowledged that faiths diverge on the issues of contraceptive use. The coalition seeks faith-based supporters regardless of their approaches to family planning, whether that includes abstinence or natural family planning, he said. The coalition does not promote abortion.

A longtime abortion foe, Frist said "contraception is as pro-life an issue as you can possibly have. It is a pro-life issue because we save lives and reduce infant and maternal deaths."

Frist and Gates pointed to the success of HIV/AIDS prevention efforts in a short period of time. In 2002, only 50,000 people living with with HIV in sub-Saharan Africa had access to anti-retroviral drugs. Today, more than 12.9 million people have access to such drugs and mortality rates have plummeted.

Childbirth or complications from pregnancy kill 287,000 women each year. If young women delayed a first pregnancy at age 16 until they reached age 18, maternal mortality rates are cut in half, Frist said. Spacing pregnancies farther apart aids women's and children's health.

The coalition hopes to spur a national consensus about aiding parents in developing countries in deciding whether or when to have children.

Reach Anita Wadhwani at 615-259-8092 and on Twitter @AnitaWadhwani.

LEARN MORE

For more information about Faith-Based Coalition for Healthy Mothers and Children Woldwide, visit www.hopethroughhealinghands.org/faith-based-coalition.

In 2002, only 50,000 people living with with HIV in sub-Saharan Africa had access to anti-retroviral drugs. President George W. Bush sought to address the millions of people affected by the disease with his PEPFAR program and US participation in the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria in 2002-2003. Today, over 12.9 million people now have access to ARVs worldwide, restoring health and life not only for individuals but also for families and communities.

While we may be winning the war on global AIDS, we still have much work to do in order to make comparable progress in improving the health of children and mothers.

Over 6.9 million children died last year in the developing world from preventable, treatable disease. Forty percent of those were newborns in their first month of life. Many of these children died of pneumonia, diarrhea, and malaria. And their deaths could easily have been averted with simple interventions like vaccines, oral rehydration, and bed nets.

Moreover, 1 of every 39 delivering women last year in Africa died in childbirth, and more than 287,000 women died worldwide from complications during pregnancy and childbirth. Yet there are simple methods to prevent these deaths as well. Successful models for healthy timing and spacing of pregnancies, alongside an increase in births taking place in health centers with skilled care during delivery and post-partum care, offer clear paths to reduce maternal mortality and improve child survival.

Isaiah 65 describes a new heaven and a new earth. The prophet foretells a time where the wolf will lie down with the lamb. When homes will be settled, and the land will bear fruit. And, "no more shall there be in it an infant who lives but a few days." Infant mortality will cease. Perhaps that day is closer at hand than we could have imagined.

The good news is that we have the information and highly effective tools for healthy timing and spacing of pregnancies, including both fertility-based natural methods and modern contraceptives, to combat maternal and infant mortality. For instance, if a young woman in Africa can "time" or delay her first pregnancy until age 18 or later, she is much less likely to die or be crippled by medical complications, and dramatically more likely to stay in secondary school, and perhaps even attend college, providing stable financial support for her family to have a brighter future. Then, if she can "space" her pregnancies just three years apart, her children are twice as likely to survive infancy.

Through Hope Through Healing Hands, Doctor-Senator Bill Frist and I support healthy timing and spacing of pregnancies as the most critical global health issue today. We believe it's set to have ripple effects across societies: combating extreme poverty, promoting gender equality, keeping young girls and children in schools, improving maternal and child health, and preventing infectious disease.

But for awareness of this issue to spread, we need Christian partners to recognize family planning as a global pro-life cause. Spacing pregnancies saves lives and improves lives. Notable faith leaders and influentials are among the Christian moms and parents who have joined our Faith-Based Coalition for Healthy Mothers and Children Worldwide. But we have just begun.

As we work together, let's also continue to pray for a new heaven and a new earth, as described by Isaiah, where maternal and infant mortality will be no more.

Jenny Eaton Dyer, Ph.D., is the executive director of Hope Through Healing Hands, a global health organization committed to improving the quality of life for communities around the world using health as a currency for peace. Dyer also teaches Global Health Politics and Policy at Vanderbilt School of Medicine. Currently, she directs The Faith-Based Coalition for Healthy Mothers and Children Worldwide, galvanizing faith leaders and other influentials for maternal, newborn, and child health.

Originally published in The Tennessean

Big names will bring a global conversation about women and children’s health to Nashville on Monday.

Bill Frist, a physician and former U.S. senator, and Melinda Gates, co-chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, will host a “community conversation” at Belmont University about maternal and child health in developing countries. Former U.S. figure skater Scott Hamilton will moderate the event, according to a release from Frist’s charity Hope Through Healing Hands.

The organization partnered with the Gates Foundation in February to found the Faith-based Coalition for Healthy Mothers and Children Worldwide. The initiative encourages American faith leaders to promote “healthy timing and spacing of pregnancies” in developing countries, the release said.

It also aims to increase access to contraceptives and decrease abortion rates. Statistics from the United Nations Population Fund say at least 200 million womenworldwide lack access to safe family planning methods. The Gates Foundation says a quarter of the 80 million women who had unintended pregnancies in 2012 underwent unsafe abortions.

Three local churches — Brentwood Baptist Church, Christ Church Nashville and the People’s Church in Franklin — have endorsed the coalition, as have notable Nashvillians Amy Grant and Michael W. Smith.

Hope Through Healing Hands will also fund a Frist Global Health Leader award for a Belmont graduate student. The program sends students and doctors to work in countries that lack medical workers and other resources.

Reach Noah Manskar at 615-259-8228 and on Twitter @noahmanskar.

We are excited to share this update from our friends at Seed. We can't wait to hear about the great things that come from this class of volunteers!

We are thrilled to announce the new class of Global Health Service Partnership Volunteers has arrived in Washington DC for orientation. This class of 42 volunteers is made up of a remarkable group of US physicians and nurses. They come from 22 states from around the US, range in age from their late twenties to late sixties, represent myriad specialties including obstetrics and gynecology, anesthesia, surgery, and mental health, and seven are returned Peace Corps Volunteers eager to apply their clinical experience in service. They are made up of 19 physicians and 23 nurses who will return to our partner sites in Malawi, Tanzania and Uganda. We are proud that three are first year GHSP volunteers who have decided to continue for a second year. 
 
These 42 volunteers will build on our extraordinary first year. We just returned from our Close of Service conference and were thrilled by the impact our first class had. Volunteers reported improving education, patient care and making a lasting impact on their professions. A few stories:
 
Matt Robinson, a physician volunteer in northern Uganda, shared how on his departure he was told by the head of his department that the mortality rate drastically reduced after his co-volunteer and he started. Further, they impacted retention. Most students do not choose generally to stay in government hospitals to work. This year, Matt overheard five graduating students ask if they could be taken up as interns at the hospital. Before, people only stayed because it was required. Now, they stay because they are choosing to. 
 
Kelly Lippi, a nurse volunteer, worked at the Mbarara University of Science and Technology in southwest Uganda in the Bachelor's of Nursing program. Of her 150 students, less than two had chosen nursing as their profession. Most students wanted to go into medicine, veterinary medicine, or pharmacy. Nursing was a last choice, but none of these nurses knew what being a nurse could be. Kelly was determined to show them this. Every day, she would come with stories about how nurses could change lives and make a difference. At the end of her year, she asked for evaluations. One student wrote "you have made me feel that I have chosen the best profession in the world." The student further elaborated she was excited to share this with her future students. Kelly achieved her goal.
 
Maureen Ries, a obstetrician working in northern Tanzania, held a conference for the labor nurses at her hospital. She taught 45 new nurses skills and protocols to make them feel more comfortable about the tasks about which they were responsible. After the conference, Maureen was presenting to her fellow physicians and was asked if all the nurses in the rural communities had attended Maureen's conference too. Maureen learned that the 45 nurses had all spread the updates Maureen had taught to the outside communities and the nurses were now updating the doctors there. Maureen provided essential education for the hospital staff, but its impact was far larger. 
 
We are excited to see this same energy and impact build over this next year. None of this success is possible without your support. We thank you for your commitment to Seed's mission of building sustainable workforces and welcome you to continue this journey with us. 
 
Vanessa and the Seed team

We arrived on the pediatrics ward this Monday, a little less naive and much less shell-shocked. I had grown accustomed to hearing only the whirring of ceiling fans, barking dogs, and the quiet chatter of Sinhalese in place of the traditional mind-numbing beeps and alarms of our medical equipment. I was pleased to see protective screening over the open air hallways, to keep the children from tumbling two stories, and to keep out the birds. It was surprising to see the number of children waiting to be evaluated for possible admission. Nearly all the beds were full, and it seemed as though they were in the habit of converting previous storage closets, consultant lounges, and any available space into treatment areas. The need for even more space remains evident.

We were greeted by Dr. Jayantha, the department head, and were quickly incorporated into rounds. My incredible learning experience began the moment we arrived at the first patient. Rapid fire questions regarding minute details about pneumonia. "Inspect this X-ray, what do you see? What organisms cause the X-ray to appear this way? How do you know? Are you certain? Why is this child's pneumonia not caused by Klebsiella?" As the only visiting students on the ward, we were not spared! He is a fantastic educator and we were soaking in every piece of information. The ward was full of interesting cases. Kawasaki disease, meningitis, dengue fever, juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, osteogenesis imperfecta, just to name a few. About 25% of our patients that day were hospitalized due to new occurrences or relapses of nephrotic syndrome. Dr. Jayantha explained the incidence is very high here, mostly caused by minimal change in his younger patients. He calls them his "nephrotics" and he holds a special renal clinic for these patients every Wednesday morning, which we attended. Collectively, we saw nearly 50 patients that Wednesday morning with some variation of this syndrome. He has spearheaded a study on his nephrotics over the past 15 years. It will certainly be an interesting read once his results are published.

Regretfully, Friday was our last day on the Peds ward. We were benefited from phenomenal teaching by a handful of consultants who were intent on actively involving their students during rounds. "Palpate this child's skull, Holly. What do you find?" "An open fontanelle sir," I responded. "Quickly, in your notebook, write down 3 reasons you may find an open fontanelle in children over the age of 18 months" he demanded. Apparently noting the oppressive heat in the ward, and the obvious sweat forming on my face, he continued, "Quickly, and then we will go snowboarding!" Snowboarding? "I'll take it," I said. "Too slow," was his response. Then he erupted in laughter, gave me a pat on the back and moved on to the next patient. This kind of rousing I was familiar with!                                     

The opportunity to go into the community and provide antenatal care, well child checks, and give immunizations was extended to us by Dr. de Silva in the Department of Community Health. We had been waiting for this! We boarded the bus with 20 medical students from the University of Ruhuna Faculty of Medicine and set out towards a primarily Muslim clinic in Gintota, about 10km from Galle. 10km came and went, then 20km, maybe 30km. There was much discussion between the bus driver, the spotter, and the instructor in charge of this outing. I didn't need to speak Sinhalese to understand that we were lost! When we finally made it to the road leading to the clinic, the bus was unable to fit, so we walked the final 2km. We walked through tiny villages, past small shops, and many people who hadn't seen many (or any) fair skinned, light haired women walk past their homes. They were curious, and came off of their porches to watch where our journey would end. It ended at a clinic at the top of a hill, which was closed! A cyclone had badly damaged the structure three weeks prior. We now had to make the trek back down the hill, into the Muslim town, where we were shuttled by a community doctor to the temporary location at a school. 35 moms-to-be and 35 children were seen that day. Although cramped in their temporary clinic, their system worked well.

We visited a Sinhalese clinic a different day this week, which strictly provided antenatal care. We found this to be just as efficiently run, with roughly 60 mothers receiving exams. I was amazed at how integral a role the midwife plays in prenatal care in the villages. She performs all exams, including albumin and blood sugar checks, fundal height measurements, and even listens for fetal heart sounds through a pinard stethoscope! A "pinard" is a cone shaped instrument made of wood, plastic or aluminum, with a second cone at the top through which you are to listen. The fundus and the baby's head are palpated, pressure is placed at the top of the fundus, and the pinard is placed approximately over the baby's left shoulder. The provider then places their ear on the top side of the pinard and listens closely (very closely) for fetal heart sounds. Warning: The aforementioned technique may read as an easy procedure; however, after being spoiled by dopplers and fetal ultrasound, this takes much practice and a well trained ear!

I read somewhere that Sri Lanka has been called the "gem" of the Indian Ocean. It is most definitely unique. The people, the food, the language, the landscape, the culture, all novelties to me. Every day is an adventure here, and I am cherishing every one.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                            

Contact: Melany Ethridge (972) 267-1111, melany@alarryross.com

Or: Kate Etue (615) 481-8420 (m)

Nashville, Tenn.--Senator Bill Frist, M.D., founder of Hope Through Healing Hands, and Melinda Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, are set to lead a community conversation on “The Mother & Child Project: Simple Steps to Saving Lives in the Developing World,” on Monday, July 14, at Belmont University.

Influencers from throughout Nashville and members of the media are invited to take part in the discussion, which will be hosted by Belmont University and moderated by Scott Hamilton, U.S. Figure Skating Olympic champion, television commentator, and philanthropist, who with his wife, Tracie, has a great passion for global health.

Hope Through Healing Hands (HTHH), a Nashville-based global health organization, recently partnered with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to create the Faith-based Coalition for Healthy Mothers and Children Worldwide. Its mission is to galvanize faith leaders across the U.S. on the issues of maternal, newborn and child health in developing countries. It emphasizes the benefits of healthy timing and spacing of pregnancies, including the voluntary use of methods for preventing pregnancy, not including abortion, that are harmonious with members’ values and religious beliefs.

“Currently, more than 6.9 million children die every year in the developing world from preventable, treatable causes. More than 287,000 women die every year due to complications of pregnancy or childbirth, most of these deaths occurring in Africa and South Asia,” Senator Frist explained. “With a focus on healthy timing and spacing of pregnancies, we can make major strides in just a few years. That’s great news for women, children, and our entire world.”

HTHH Executive Director, Jenny Dyer, Ph.D notes, “This one issue—healthy timing and spacing of pregnancies–could be a key to saving lives and economic empowerment in the developing world.”

Melinda Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, commented, “When women are able to plan their families, the positive benefits last a lifetime – they have healthier pregnancies, healthier newborns and healthier children. Faith-based organizations, with their deep roots in communities, can play a critical role in expanding access to information and tools to space births. Together, these efforts can build on the remarkable progress we’ve made toward saving and improving the lives of women and children around the world.”

In addition to hosting the July 14 event, Belmont University will also be partnering with Hope Through Healing Hands via a Frist Global Health Leader award, which will fund a global health overseas experience for a Belmont graduate student. Belmont Provost Dr. Thomas Burns noted, “Belmont is committed to preparing compassionate and engaged healthcare leaders who can tackle the difficult issues of a 21st century world. Empowering healthy mothers and children through awareness and knowledge fits well with our mission, and Hope Through Healing Hands is a perfect partner for the University as we seek to expand global health opportunities for our students.”

The Mother & Child Project event will focus on these topics, addressing questions from the audience and those submitted in advance to Jenny@HopeThroughHealingHands.org. A light breakfast will be served at 9:30 a.m. in the Maddox Grand Atrium at the Curb Event Center on the Belmont University Campus, at 2002 Belmont Boulevard, Nashville. The discussion will follow at 10 a.m. Parking is available at the Curb Event Center Garage on Bernard Avenue (between Belmont Boulevard and 15th Avenue South).

Information about those who have joined the coalition to date, as well as how others can help, is available at http://www.hopethroughhealinghands.com/faith-based-coalition. Endorsements for the coalition are available at http://www.hopethroughhealinghands.com/endorsements_1.

Hope Through Healing Hands is a Nashville-based nonprofit 501(c)(3) whose mission is to promote improved quality of life for citizens and communities around the world using health as a currency for peace. Senator Bill Frist, M.D., is the founder and chair of the organization, and Jenny Eaton Dyer, Ph.D., is the CEO/Executive Director.

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EDITOR’S NOTE: For more information, visit http://alarryross.com/newsroom/hope-through-healing-hands-2/.

We're loving this infographic from The Girl Effect that shows why it's so smart to invest in girls. Read it and share it. Girls matter, and our world need them strong, healthy, and educated. By ending child marriage and child motherhood, we allow a generation of girls to stay in school, become educated, and contribute back to their local economy. And this will change the world.

The Girl Effect info graphic

I wasn’t sure what to expect when I arrived at Mahamodara Maternity Hospital. The tuk tuk dropped us off outside of what appeared to be fortress walls. We were met by our Duke coordinator and led through the gate, past a building that was in disrepair and dilapidated. We traversed through a labyrinth of crumbling plaster and boarded up windows. There was a smell of mildew lingering in the air. I thought to myself, “Women come here to give birth”? Once we rounded a corner, I noticed an area to my right which looked as if it should have been full of expectant women, but was eerily vacant. It was then I realized what I was seeing was the shell of the Mahamodara which stood during the 2004 tsunami. I stared into the ward, and could imagine this area full of pregnant women and newborns on that day, and could almost feel their terror. I was told the hospital was hit by 3 waves. The first wave destroyed the “fortress” walls that I had seen earlier, but these barriers had lessened the impact to the building. It flooded the first level and knocked out the electricity. The doctors and staff evacuated the mothers and infants, some to higher ground, and others to Karapitiya Hospital. The second wave was estimated between 20-30 feet high. There are many stories of heroic men and women from that day, including one physician who calmly completed a Cesarean section by flashlight after the first wave hit. He then safely evacuated the mother and child. Due to lack of funds to demolish the building, it now stands as a temporary memorial.

We moved on, and at the end of the hallway we entered a courtyard. In front of us was a beautiful new building which now housed high risk expectant mothers. The ward contained 64 mothers who had a variety of problems, such as gestational diabetes, hypertension, and preterm premature rupture of membranes. There were strict visiting hours here, so there were no hovering families or concerned husbands. The hospital has very few fetal heart rate monitors, so the midwives and nurses monitor the fetus through the use of a pinard.  I spent a lot of time in this ward, and in the antenatal clinic, examining patients. I practiced with the pinard, straining to hear the fetal heartbeat as clearly as these experienced midwives, who could easily estimate fetal heart rates. I did many abdominal examinations, measuring the fundus, palpating the fetal position, and attempting to guess the baby’s weight in kilograms. I was certainly attaining one goal I had for this rotation, to get back to basics!

I witnessed the miracle of birth for the first time this week. I made my way through the maze of exterior hallways at Mahamodara to the labor and delivery room. Once I entered, I saw 10 wrought iron beds sitting side by side, each containing a woman in varying stages of labor. Two had just given birth and were coddling their newborns, encouraging them to breast feed for the first time. Several were in the final stages of labor. I chose a mother and joined the midwife and medical student who were at her side. I again noted the palpable absence of the typical “cheering squad” you see in America. These women were left to hold their own legs, and labor alone. There are no epidurals or pain medication, just pure will and true grit. After another hour of exhausting effort, she gave birth to a healthy baby girl. A new mother’s joy transcends all language barriers!

This was my final week in Sri Lanka. I cannot express enough gratitude to the doctors and staff at Karapitiya Hospital, and the University of Ruhuna Faculty of Medicine, for all of their time and willingness to share their vast knowledge.  The long journey home gave me time to reflect on my experiences here, and all that I have learned. Of course I am extremely grateful to have had the opportunities to assist in surgeries and delivering babies, to learn about rare illnesses not seen in the United States, and to practice primitive examination skills; but some of the most invaluable lessons I have learned were from the Sri Lankan people themselves. They are a hopeful people. Having recently suffered through a natural disaster, as well as a three-decade long civil war, they see brighter days ahead and are working hard to be sure the whole world can see them too. They are patient people, accepting of the fact they may have to return to the hospital daily in hopes of being admitted, or that their surgery may be delayed by many weeks. They are people who are full of grace, willing to undergo painful procedures without pain medication or anesthesia, with no complaints. Finally, they are a grateful people. They understand they are fortunate to have free healthcare and very skilled physicians. The phrase “medical malpractice” is foreign to them, and litigation against their physicians is unheard of. They are grateful for visitors from faraway lands and are eager to share their history and culture with all those who are willing to make the trip!

January 13

I can’t believe my time here in Haiti is over—but it is. I’m writing this from my guesthouse in Port-au-Prince, in preparation for my flight home tomorrow.

I would like to thank Senator Frist for forming the Frist Global Health Leadership Program, and for allowing me to have come to Haiti to work at HIC. I’d also like to thank the many people at Vanderbilt, Dartmouth, and HIC who helped me make the needed connections and organize the details of my trip. Last but not least, I’d like to give a special shout-out to my boyfriend, for supporting and encouraging me to leave him—and the U.S.—for three months and go work in Haiti. Thank you.

Although there were certainly nights that were incredibly difficult, there were many more that were amazing, and I am so very thankful for having been able to work at HIC. I was able to learn from so many experienced, kind, patient doctors and (mainly) nurses. They opened their hospital and the maternity ward to me, and were willing to teach me and make me an infinitely better midwife. I know that my time at HIC will forever impact how I care for my patients, and how I look upon all of the resources available to my moms and babies back in the U.S. Additionally, working here has further solidified my desire to work internationally, and has given me a clearer idea of what that life will be like.

I sincerely hope that if Senator Frist had come to visit HIC that the staff and the patients I interacted with would have said I was worthy of being a Frist Leader.

This last picture is of me and an auxiliary nurse (kind of like an LPN) named Mrs. Lorcey. Mrs. Lorcey works most nights, and so I worked with her more than any other provider during my time at HIC. I was always pleased when I'd arrive to work and see Mrs. Lorcey there because we worked well together and respected each others skills as providers. Although at first Mrs. Lorcey didn't trust me--as she shouldn't have--as I slowly proved myself and my skills she let me do more and more on my own, and helped guide me through interventions that I'd never done/seen before. By the end of my time at HIC I know that she believed in my abilities, and let me work as independently as I wanted. I worked with Mrs. Lorcey on my last night at the maternity and in the morning when it was time to leave she gave me a big hug--something I didn't see that often in Haiti--and told me she'd miss me. I will certainly miss her,  her smile and her quiet, calm encouragement when I was stressed or unsure of what I was doing.

 

 

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