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U-M receives $25 million grant for training doctors in Africa

October 9, 2014
Written by
Senait Fisseha, director of U-M’s new Center for International Reproductive Health Training

Senait Fisseha, director of U-M’s new Center for International Reproductive Health Training

ANN ARBOR—With a $25 million grant from an anonymous donor, the University of Michigan will be able to significantly build on its success training doctors in Africa in reproductive health services not widely available to many women in remote areas of the continent.

The grant will allow faculty at the U-M Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology to create a center for reproductive health training that will increase the number of health professionals equipped to provide life-saving reproductive health care, especially to women whose families are poor.

“Every day, women across the globe are dying and suffering from poor health outcomes because they don’t have access to high quality, comprehensive reproductive health care,” said Senait Fisseha, the center’s director.

“We are overwhelmingly grateful for this extraordinary grant that allows us to build on our strong foundation of global reproductive health programs and continue to pursue a longtime dream to provide all women a full scope of high-quality reproductive health care when and where they need it,” said Fisseha, who was born in Ethiopia and is a reproductive endocrinology and infertility specialist at the U-M Health System.

Globally, reproductive health issues are a leading cause of poor health and death of women of childbearing age. Women in developing countries suffer disproportionately from reproductive health issues, including unintended pregnancies, unsafe abortions, maternal death and disability and sexually transmitted infections.

U-M’s new Center for International Reproductive Health Training will coordinate pre-service training to incoming doctors, nurses and midwives with a focus on comprehensive family planning services as well as timing and spacing of pregnancies for safe deliveries. Unintended pregnancies among Ethiopian women are linked to a higher than global average of deaths and disability among women.  Such deaths are often unnecessary if health care providers were well-trained in critical medical procedures.

The first phase of the project will allow U-M to build on its strong partnership with St. Paul Hospital Millennium Medical College in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, expanding comprehensive pre-service reproductive health training to seven other medical schools throughout the country. This partnership was jump-started by Fisseha in 2012 to integrate family planning training into medical education.

“Good reproductive health services are essential for healthier women and mothers. And healthier mothers have healthier children and families,” said Fisseha, honored with Ethiopia’s Ministry of Health’s highest award in 2013 for her contributions to the country’s health sector.

Women’s health continues to be a particularly urgent health issue in Ethiopia where the maternal mortality ratio is 420 for every 100,000 births, among the highest in the world. That compares to a maternal mortality ratio of 28 per 100,000 in the U.S., 8 per 100,000 in the U.K. and 3 per 100,000 in Norway.

For three decades, U-M has been training physicians in the West African nation of Ghana. The program’s co-founder, Timothy R.B. Johnson, said the $25 million gift will enable U-M to further its commitment to Africa on an unprecedented scale.

“Our Ghana model has taught us how bilateral partnerships between physicians and universities in high- and low-income countries can lead to sustainable ways to improve the health of women, children and families throughout the world,” said Johnson, chair of U-M’s department of obstetrics and gynecology.

The gift is part of the university’s recently launched $4 billion Victors for Michigan campaign; the health system comprises one quarter of the campaign, with a goal to raise $1 billion for medical research, patient care and education.

Related links:

Q&A with Senait Fisseha

U-M Ghana initiative

Michigan in Ethiopia blog

Battling brain drain: training doctors in Ethiopia






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