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Fistula program in Liberia continues

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In November, we returned from our sixth trip to Liberia where our surgery program is going remarkably well. We continue to work with the Liberian Ministry of Health and Dr. John Mulbah, our partner in Monrovia, to provide equipment, training, and care for women suffering with birth injuries and obstetric fistula (OF). OF is a devastating condition that affects almost 2 million women worldwide and it’s estimated that almost 100,000 new cases develop annually. OF is a condition of poverty and neglect and it affects the most marginalized populations: poor women who are pregnant.

Our work in Liberia started in 2015 after the Ebola outbreak and has been remarkably fruitful with over 150 cases done. We’re committed to training Liberian medical residents and surgeons in pelvic reconstructive surgery and fistula repair as these procedures are highly technical and require skilled surgeons. It’s estimated that each case costs $900 to $1000 per patient. These estimates include the operation, transportation, post operative care, food and all medications and equipment. It is our hope that in 2019, with your generous donations, we will continue our work helping in the recovery of at least another 60 women and continue training new young generation of surgeons who will go on to become vital to the medical care of this country.

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Updates from Puerto Rico

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In October, we returned to Vieques, Puerto Rico for our 4th visit this year to assist with post-hurricane medical care and recovery.  People on Vieques have had extremely limited access to healthcare since Hurricane Maria struck more than a year ago. The IMR team arrived on October 19th, and conducted a two day clinic in Esperanza, where we saw approximately thirty patients.  The team was made up of Drs. Sleemi and Schiller, two Emergency Medicine resident physicians from Maimonides Medical Center in Brooklyn, Drs. Suman Gupta and Cecily Sotomayor, and our colleague Ana Aurrecochea, a surgical nurse from California.

In addition to clinical care, IMR worked in conjunction with local community leaders  to provide home visits for Vieques’ more vulnerable patient population, in which we were able to assess needs and provide appropriate medications and follow up.  

The trip was short and sweet, but  there is still much to do. While Vieques has achieved a measure of stability in its access to healthcare, it’s still experiencing interference in basic infrastructure.  Electrical power is interrupted on a regular basis, putting patients reliant on ventilators at high risk for decompensation, as well as compromising refrigerated food and medications (such as insulin) for the more susceptible patient population.  Please continue your support of IMR so that we can support those who need it most.

Looking forward to a productive 2019!





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Haitian Women's Collaborative Project Update

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This past September, IMR returned to Haiti for our third trip this year continuing our pelvic surgery training initiative: the Haitian Women's Collaborative Project. This trip was full of many highlights including operating on 15 patients alongside our Haitian colleagues and students, introducing our new volunteer Amaris Lunde to our care team in Haiti, being interviewed by Radio Television Caraibes, and an invitation for our Executive Director Dr. Ambereen Sleemi to join the Haitian Society of Obstetrics and Gynecology (SHOG) as an honorary member.

The week started at St. Boniface Hospital in southern Haiti, operating and caring for women with pelvic organ prolapse (a condition where one or more of the pelvic organs like the uterus or bladder drop to or through the vagina), vesicovaginal fistulas (a hole that forms in the vaginal wall), and more. Since 2014, we've worked with Haitian OB/GYN resident physicians at St. Boniface, National, and Croix des Bouquet Hospitals as part of their training program to increase their surgical skills. Our focus continues to be on improving a surgeon’s skills using a minimally invasive approach that leads to fewer complications and quicker recovery for our patients and implementing initiatives to increase patient safety in the Operating Room. IMR volunteer Amaris Lunde, a Nurse Practitioner from Portland, OR, assisted and trained Haitian nurses caring for patients in the post-operative period. Senior OB/GYN resident physicians from Port au Prince joined us for the week for training. We then traveled to Port au Prince, joining our longtime local partner Dr. Batsch. Together, we operated on women with obstetric fistula (a hole that forms between the vaginal wall and rectum or bladder due to prolonged, obstructed labor), again focusing on surgical techniques, patient safety, perioperative care and more.

Dr. Batsch and Dr. Sleemi with Radio Television Caraibes

Dr. Batsch and Dr. Sleemi with Radio Television Caraibes

In between their busy schedule operating on patients, Dr. Batsch and Dr. Sleemi were interviewed by Radio Television Caraibes, one of the oldest and most popular Haitian broadcasters, about maternal health, birth complications and obstetric fistula. Many women with fistulas and other pelvic floor disorders suffer silently so the chance to inform the public about these devastating conditions was an opportunity not to be missed. We continued our campaign to raise awareness by meeting with UNFPA Haiti (United Nations Populations Fund) to discuss how to assess prevalence of fistula and pelvic floor disorders in Haiti.

Finally, we would like to congratulate Dr. Sleemi, our Executive Director, who received an official invitation to be an honorary member of the Haitian Society of Obstetrics and Gynecology (SHOG), the professional organization for all OB/GYNs in Haiti. This honor is a reflection of her passion and continued dedication to caring for women of Haiti.

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IMR partners with GOALS Haiti

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IMR is thrilled to announce that this December, we will be working with GOALS Haiti to provide a seminar to the aspiring healthcare providers in the Leogane region of Haiti.

GOALS is a grass roots effort to engage the region’s youth in athletics as a means of developing leadership, team building and health consciousness. Working in partnership with GOALS will give us the opportunity to reach areas that are currently underserved by local healthcare systems. Building capacity with practitioner training will promote sustainability to provide primary care in the near future.

In addition, we will be opening a primary care clinic to serve the wider community for five days. This will serve multiple purposes, the first being that higher risk patient populations will have greater access to medical evaluations. Secondly, the clinic will serve as excellent bedside training for those attending the seminar. Thirdly, the clinic will act as a foundational link towards building a sustained effort in promoting healthcare in the future to Leogane.

We look forward to this new partnership that will deepen our commitment to improving the health of Haitians.

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Announcing our new Executive Director!

 

Please welcome IMR's new Executive Director, Dr. Ambereen Sleemi.

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Ambereen is a co-founder and  Surgical Director of International Medical Response. She has been a crucial figure at IMR since inception and has led our projects in Puerto Rico, Malawi, Liberia and Haiti. Her passion for quality care has fueled her to treat women with fistulas and other pelvic floor disorders all over the world. 

As a female pelvic medicine reconstructive surgeon (Urogynecologist) and trained obstetric fistula surgeon, Ambereen serves as an obstetric fistula surgeon for the Eritrean Women’s Project in Mendefera, Eritrea since 2007, and as a surgical team co-leader for Medicine In Action’s spring trip to Kingston, Jamaica as well as on the medical board. She spent 6 years on the executive committee of the International Society for Obstetric Fistula Surgeons (ISOFS) and is still an active member. In January, 2013, she developed the Haitian Women’s Heath Collaborative in partnership with the Department of Ob/Gyn at the National Hospital in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. This project has expanded to a partnership with St. Boniface Hospital in the southern part of the country, continuing our pledge to increase safe surgical capacity in Haiti. 

She holds an MD/MPH from George Washington University School of Medicine, and is currently pursuing her M.S. in Epidemiology at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health. She trained in Ob/Gyn at Louisiana State University in New Orleans, LA, in Female Pelvic Medicine and Reconstructive Surgery at Maimonides Medical Center and in obstetric fistula surgery in Northern Nigeria. 

We are thrilled to have Ambereen lead us through this new chapter!

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