Obstetricians and gynecologists play an undeniably important role in women’s health and wellbeing, particularly during pregnancy, childbirth, and the postpartum period. But both at home and around the world, there is a troubling and growing gap between the need and availability of skilled obstetric professionals. Ahead of this week’s American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) annual meeting, Seed Global Health’s Director of Obstetrics and Gynecology Programs, Dr. Maureen Ries, reflects on the importance and future of global OB/GYN workforce strengthening.
Caring for women impacts the health of not only one woman, but her baby, her children at home and her family as a whole. Access to, and provision of, good maternal health care reduces maternal and neonatal morbidity and mortality. A healthier mother raises healthier children. Health is also intertwined in women’s empowerment and gender equality. All of these factor in the development of stronger local health systems.
Unfortunately, low- and middle-income countries, representing nearly half of the world’s population, are home to just over a quarter of the world’s obstetricians. That means in places like Tanzania, Liberia, and Uganda, there are many more women who need access to skilled OB/GYN care than are able to actually attain that care.
This is why Seed Global Health has invested in teaching and training the next generation of obstetricians and gynecologists – and it’s why partners like ACOG are focused on teaching as they prepare for their annual professional convening. National conferences are wonderful opportunities to learn, share and debate ideas. ACOG not only provides continuing medical education for practitioners in women’s health, but also helps to catalyze advocacy and action to strengthen OB/GYN care in the U.S. and globally.
Before joining Seed’s staff, I was fortunate enough to serve with them as a volunteer educator in Tanzania. My year spent serving as a volunteer allows me to truly relate to and empathize with the volunteers on the ground. Their work has the potential for enormous impact and it is challenging to serve on the front lines of OB/GYN care. I am continuously inspired to help improve our programs, teaching and positive impact.
Every summer I meet the new, incoming volunteers and give a talk about global women’s health. At each orientation I am envious of the adventure they are about to embark on. My year as a volunteer was one of the most challenging experiences in my life, but it was also the most gratifying. Spending a year engaging in the teaching of others, in an environment where it has such an impact, is still the contribution to Seed that I’m most proud of.