On a whiteboard in my office, I have written the words: witness, advocate, exchange and improve. These are my pillars of global health. Witness, don’t rescue. Advocate, for a diversity of backgrounds. Exchange, sustainably and equitably. Improve, building appropriate technology and capacity. These core concepts may seem obvious, but they require training in global health ethics and the realities of on-the-ground work in low-resource settings.
The Western Connecticut Health Network/University of Vermont Robert Larner MD College of Medicine Global Women’s Health Program does just that. It informs and enhances the perspectives of medical trainees, leaving them with an organized and nuanced appreciation for the practice of global women’s health. The participants move forward in their clinical, education and research roles with an understanding of how to effectively approach caring for those from diverse backgrounds as well as how to build sustainable and equitable relationships with foreign partners. By witnessing, advocating for and exchanging ideas, our trainees improve health care for patients both at their home institution as well as abroad.
The Global Women’s Health Program continued to grow and thrive during 2016. Early in the year, our partner site at Makerere University in Uganda shifted to a new facility due to massive renovations taking place at the national referral and main teaching hospital in the capital city, Kampala. This meant disruption to some of our collaborative programs including the UVM-Makerere Global Women’s Health Education Program computer lab as well as our laparoscopic surgical skills program. At the close of this year, however, the OBGYN department at Makerere is settled into their new location and the computer lab is back online. Laparoscopy should follow shortly.
In 2016, four senior medical students and one UVM OB/GYN resident traveled to East Africa to participate in Global Women’s Health field experiences. During their elective rotations, the trainees reflected on the challenges of working in a resource limited area, developed bonds with their African peers and returned to the United States to speak eloquently about the situation they witnessed.
UVM students also participated in global women’s health-focused research throughout the year. Three posters were accepted for presentation at national meetings – two at the Consortium of Universities for Global Health in San Francisco and one at the International Council on Women’s Health Issues in Baltimore. We continue to partner with the UVM Department of Radiology on exciting, collaborative projects involving the use of portable, low cost obstetric ultrasound in low resource settings. At the North American Society of Radiologists annual meeting, we presented our data about the use of ultrasound to accurately date pregnancies using an innovative imaging technique specifically designed for areas of the world with a shortage of radiologists.
Our hope for 2017 is that through ongoing global partnerships in education, research and capacity building, the Western Connecticut Health Network/University of Vermont Robert Larner MD College of Medicine Global Women’s Health Program will continue to develop skilled, culturally compassionate women’s health care providers in the United States and beyond, thus raising the standard of women’s healthcare globally. With ongoing reflection on the pillars of global health – witness, advocate, exchange and improve – our trainees will go out into the world prepared to shape the future of global women’s health.