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Mountains for Mamas: An Update

 

SHE DID IT!!!

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While traversing this relentless present, if you can support the human ahead or behind you in the climb of life, that’s when you realize what it’s all about: loving hard as we climb with purpose, intention and grace. And as a mother, I can’t think of an intention more fitting than to support new mothers in their next step, on one of their most difficult climbs.”

-IMR Board Member and Climber of Peaks, Gillian Green

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A few months ago, our board member Gillian set out to climb mountain peaks in Mexico and raise funds for IMR. We can’t be more thrilled to have someone like Gillian on our board, supporting mothers and other vulnerable populations around the world. These peaks are no match for some as determined and dedicated as her. We are thankful for all those who supported her tremendous effort, raising over $1200, which goes to our programs to give women suffering with obstetric fistula, a devastating birth condition, another chance at getting their lives back. Over 90% of women with fistula have lost their newborns to obstructed labor, and in some cases, lost family, friends and social ties over the chronic urine and or fecal incontinence caused by the injuries. It is estimated that only 1 in 50 women who need surgery for fistula actually get an operation. We are working to change this by working with local surgeons, medical societies, Ministries of Health, and other advocacy groups to provide safe and skilled operations in Liberia, Haiti and Malawi. Each project also has local surgeons who are committed to ending fistula in their communities, who need the surgical training to provide the best care. 

Thanks to Gillian and those who supported her, we are able to provide surgical care to cure these injuries and train more local surgeons in affected communities. For more information about what drew Gillian to mountain climbing, please see our interview with her here

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Mountains For Mamas

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Our board member Gillian is an avid adventure seeker and climber of peaks. On May 23rd, International Day to End Obstetric Fistula, she will be travelling to Mexico to climb Iztaccihuatl and Pico de Orizaba, standing at 5,215 meters and 5,630 meters, respectively. Pico de Orizaba is the third highest peak in North America. The climb will be called Mountains for Mamas as a dedication to raise funds for IMR’s work to treat women suffering from obstetric fistula.

Gillian has been a great supporter of IMR and we wanted to learn more about what intrigues her about scaling peaks and how she prepared for this huge feat! Thank you Gillian for climbing these 2 Mexican peaks as a fundraiser for IMR. We are humbled and awed by this endeavor.


1) What about these two Mexican peaks drew you and what are you doing to prep for these climbs?

Any day on a mountain is better than a day at sea level! It’s become a small obsession of mine, so I have slowly begun to build my climbing resume. I choose these two peaks because they allow me to go relatively high in a relatively short amount of time. And the views are other-worldly gorgeous! But as you aptly ask, climbing is just as much about the process as it is about summiting. And so we start at the beginning…

The mountain commands all your faculties so I try to find balance among differing regimens. I lift weights for strength– every day is leg day! For cardio, I run in rain, snow or shine with my trusty, fluffy steed of a puppy named Benji. And when I can, I do an epic 3 hour session on the stair-master with 40-50 lbs in my pack. For physical and mental balance, I do yoga. There is something magical and deeply applicable about learning to breathe through difficult poses.

2) What are your future goals as a climber?

In truth, I’d love to do this full time. But in the meantime I hope to find my way to the Himalayas later this year or early next year. I would love to tackle a 7000 meter peak, whether in the Himalayas, the Karakorum or the Trans-Alay Range. The idea is to systematically test how your body will react at increased altitude as well as acquire the skills you need to operate in these inhospitable environments. Mistakes are amplified in the theater of high altitude mountaineering and only through experience can you learn how to operate in these hostile conditions. And with this experience I’d love to eventually climb something a little higher like Shishapangma, Cho Oyo or even Everest. But with a slightly more unusual intention. Since the advent of commercial high altitude mountaineering, anyone with a dream and a checkbook could find their way onto Everest. This doesn’t interest me. My dream is to be a part of a rope fixing team and humbly shadow the incredible Sherpa mountaineers who are the oxygen of the Himalayan climbing ecosystem. This is a lofty dream, but you have to take that first step sometime and somewhere.

Though through it all, my ultimate goal is to raise loads of funds in support of IMR when I climb!

3) How does climbing reflect your outlook on life?

One can make the obvious inferences regarding climbing - as a single mother in New York City, the proverbial application is certainly fitting. Often you feel like you’re battling uphill against the wind and elements of an industry (and society) that was not constructed in your favor, all while your thighs and toes are burning in new and unfathomable ways. Nevertheless, I have spent most of my professional years helping pave the way for and supporting women in a male dominated industry through my leadership roles in women’s networks at various investment banks. High altitude mountaineering, similar to finance, is very male dominated but, as with all things in the natural world, mountains are the great equalizer an show no favoritism. I hope my burgeoning story will inspire any young girl with a dream to do something that others, whether directly or indirectly, tell you that you can’t.

Mountains have a way of amplifying the conundrum of the human condition. There’s an internal shift that happens when you’re at the mercy of this beautiful, wild planet. You realize that safety is an illusion, and as much as you want to believe that you are in control, the unforgiving elements, the terrain’s unpredictability and your shallow breath remind you that are not. You are stripped of your past and future; nothing matters but the present. And your present is only your next step, the next one… and the one after that. There is a quiet grace to this simplicity juxtaposed against the backdrop of the harshest places on this planet. While traversing this relentless present, if you can support the human ahead or behind you in the climb of life, that’s when you realize what it’s all about: loving hard as we climb with purpose, intention and grace. And as a mother, I can’t think of an intention more fitting than to support new mothers in their next step, on one of their most difficult climbs.


If you would like to contribute to her campaign, please click here.

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Dr. Sleemi to join panel at Ensemble Studio Theatre's "Behind the Sheet"

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We are excited to share that IMR’s Executive Director Dr. Sleemi will be joining a panel of experts for a conversation on February 2nd after the 2pm performance of BEHIND THE SHEET. The play, written by Charly Evon Simpson and produced by Ensemble Studio Theatre in NYC, “confronts the history of a great medical breakthrough by telling the forgotten story of a community of enslaved black women who involuntarily enabled the discovery. In 1840s Alabama, Philomena assists a doctor—her owner—as he performs experimental surgeries on her fellow slave women, trying to find a treatment for the painful post-childbirth complications known as fistulas. Reframing the origin story of modern gynecology, the play dramatizes how these women supported each other, and questions who, and what, history remembers.”

We hope you can join us! Click here for more info.

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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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