Guest Blog: Hamlin Fistula Hospital in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

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MWIA´s president elect, Dr. Clarissa Fabre visited the Hamlin Fistula Hospital in Addis Ababa.

I recently visited the Hamlin Fistula Hospital in Addis Ababa. It was an inspiring experience. Founded in 1974 by Drs Catherine and Reginald Hamlin, it now has 5 satellite sites in Ethiopia as well as the main hospital in Addis Ababa. Young girls in rural Ethiopia often marry in their teens, are poorly nourished, have poorly supervised pregnancies, develop obstructed labour, form fistulae between vagina and bladder or between vagina and rectum. They leak urine or faeces, they smell, are consequently rejected by their husbands, and become social outcasts. They walk miles to get to medical care. At the Fistula Hospital, they are strengthened and nourished, their fistulas are repaired, and they are rehabilitated. Some of them become nursing assistants when they are well again, and help with the care of future patients.

It is astonishing that around 4000 patients with fistulae are still treated each year (the phenomenon is virtually unknown in high income countries). The problem is poor access to medical care in labour, and especially access to caesarian sections if indicated (in rural communities 90% of births are outside a healthcare facility). The Hamlin Fistula Hospital now trains 20 midwives each year on a four year degree course. The midwives come from these poor rural communities and will return there once their course is completed.

How could MWF become involved with the Fistula Hospital? All treatment for these girls is free of charge. They arrive at the hospital as social outcasts after days of walking. Once their treatment is complete, each girl is discharged with a clean new dress and a bus ticket home. What a transformation! Charities in the U.K (www.hamlinfistulauk.org), Australia, Canada and the US are very successful in raising funds. Our members, who are trained uro-gynaecologists might consider a placement as volunteers.fitsula hospital clarissa

The Hamlin Fistula Hospital is a wonderful oasis of medical care. It is set among trees and flowers, the staff are dedicated to holistic care. Dr Catherine Hamlin is now 93 years old (her husband died over 20 years ago) and she lives on site. She is known as 'the mother of all mothers' and has created a unique centre of excellent medical care, combined with a loving and caring environment. I would highly recommend that MWF supports the whole concept in any way that we can.

 

Dr Clarissa Fabre

Past president MWF
MWIA president-elect
MWIA representative to WHO

'Women in Medicine – a Celebration' Exhibition at the RCP

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 parveen exhibition

2017-18 is Women in Medicine Year, marking the 100th anniversary of the Medical Women’s Federation and the first time in history that the majority of the world-renowned medical royal colleges have been led by women.

'Women in medicine: a celebration’ is a free exhibition of specially commissioned photographic portraits honouring the contribution of women, past and present, to medicine. Twenty-six medical organisations, including all the medical royal colleges, have collaborated to put together the exhibition, which can be visited at the Royal College of Physicians (London) until 19th January 2018.

Modern day women in medicine were asked to nominate women from the history of medicine who inspired them. MWF president Professor Dame Parveen Kumar nominated Dr Jane Walker, who dedicated her life to helping Tuberculosis patients with open air sanatoriums and founded the MWF in 1917.

Further information can be located on the RCP website here.

International Women's Day 2017 - Be Bold For Change

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internationalwomensday landscape

International Women’s Day is especially significant for MWF this year as we celebrate our centenary in 2017. Today and every day we are grateful for the hard work of the pioneering medical women who came before us and as an organisation we strive to move forward, pushing for equality and fairness for women in medicine.

The theme of this year’s International Women’s Day is ‘Be Bold For Change’, a principle that MWF was founded upon. In 1917, 190 women coming together at a time when it was difficult to have your voice heard as a woman, let alone as a woman in medicine, is nothing short of inspiring.

Today we celebrate medical women and their past achievements and we look forward to a bright future. We encourage you to nominate a friend or colleague or put yourself forward for our 100th Anniversary Prize. We are awarding three prizes, to a senior established doctor, an established doctor and an up and coming doctor to celebrate the diversity of our membership and shout about your achievements. Click here to download the nomination form.

BBC Woman's Hour Celebrates 100 Years of the MWF

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2017 marks the centenary of the Medical Women's Federation. To celebrate, BBC Woman's Hour spoke to leading female clinicians about the women from medical history who inspired them.

MWF president Professor Dame Parveen Kumar discussed the work of Dr Jane Walker, who dedicated her life to helping Tuberculosis patients with open air sanatoriums and founded the MWF in 2017. The important question of why women doctors still need support to fully achieve equality is discussed, along with the lasting relevance of the Medical Women's Federation in 2017 and beyond.

You can listen to the inspiring interview here.

 

rcp parveen

Photo credit: Royal College of Physicians

 

 

Travel Broadens the Mind

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In March 2016 Dr Heidi Doughty was awarded the MWF Dorothy Ward International Travel Fund. Based in Birmingham, Heidi works as a part time Consultant in Transfusion Medicine and describes her professional passion as ‘Good Blood in Bad places’. She travelled to Bergen, Norway in August 2016 to research the use of whole blood in massive haemorrhage.

Why Bergen?

I chose to visit Bergen because the hospital based blood service there had recently introduced the provision of whole blood for the local Air Ambulance. The project is part of a larger programme of transfusion innovation due to the collaboration between Haukeland University Hospital, the pre-hospital community including the military, and the University. The visit gave me an opportunity to build on my own work as well as visit a transfusion system that is very different from the UK. I wanted to look at their transfusion support for haemorrhage and consider the implications of re-offering whole blood alongside component therapy in the UK. 

I was extremely fortunate to secure professional leave from NHS Blood and Transplant. However, Norway is relatively expensive. Two cups of coffee and a cookie in a café may cost over £20. So, I needed to carefully consider the living costs. I used a combination of special offers for the flight and my sponsor, Prof Tor Hervig, had secured well-priced student hostel accommodation near the hospital. It was to be a 10 m² room with: duvet but no bedding; wash basin but shared bathroom; and internet but no Wi-Fi. I needed to rethink my packing list. So I took essential eating utensils, Ethernet cable and radio. However, I confess that I arranged to borrow local hospital bedding. The room may have been small but the hostel gave me a room with a wonderful view and an introduction to the most hilarious group of international students.

bergen fish marketBergen fish market

Getting down to work

I recommend arriving before a weekend to orientate. I had been met at the airport by one of the female consultants, Torunn. Her kindness and support really made the difference. We spent the Friday on formalities, Saturday – baking at her home and on Monday I was ‘good to go’. The most important time in any new project is the first face to face meeting with the ‘boss’. It provides the reality check. Tor had been injured. Many staff were away for their summer holidays or getting ready for conferences. I have MS and although well at the moment, I get tired. However, we had Tor’s small research team including the computer genius, Joar, who immediately secured Wi-Fi connectivity for both my laptop and Smart Phone. This meant I could remotely access my work emails and documents. The Bergen team asked me to review the impact of their Acute Transfusion Package introduced in 2007. They had extracted 13 years of data but offered it to me for analysis to provide a new perspective and lead on publication.

I reviewed the data in the context of the international literature. This was really interesting as I was not familiar with the early Nordic papers and guidelines. They were really early adopters of the new paradigm of massive haemorrhage management. In the blood bank, I followed the journey of the ‘whole blood’ from the donor, through platelet sparing white cell filtration to quality control. Most of the procedures were written in Norwegian so I learnt to use Translation software. I was also introduced to their new Multiplate Analyser ® designed to analyse platelet function. During the second week I visited some of the areas dealing with massive haemorrhage including Emergency department, ITU and the Air Ambulance. The most novel activity for me was writing a travel blog for MWF. It was a really interesting combination of reflective note writing and capturing the moment.

bryggen

Looking across the waterfront to the historic Bryggen area

Capture the moment

One of the things that have learned during my travels is to ‘capture the moment’. This includes collecting and dating evidence such as policy documents, procedures, your own notes and photographs. In addition, back-up all electronic records. I found it useful to summarise my initial thought and findings in a PowerPoint presentation for the project team. I also integrated some of the findings into my presentation on UK practice given to the whole Department. This generated a more dynamic exchange and ideas. An unexpected area of interest was my experience of transfusion support for the Olympics because they were preparing for a 2017 sporting events.

Travel not only broadens the mind, it enlarges your professional and personal networks. The travel fellowship has built upon my past knowledge and should inform future developments. It was only 2 and half weeks and I wish it had been longer. However, I am confident that I will continue to work with the Bergen team and revisit. This visit was designed for my benefit but I hope I added value for them as a mature practitioner from the UK. Such travel fellowships continue the strong tradition in Medicine of taking a European and global outlook. All of us, but especially our patients, benefit. I strongly recommend my colleagues to apply because to quote “You will travel to learn and return to inspire”.

air ambulance

Air ambulance coming into land

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