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Northwestern Doc to Bring Her Expertise Back Home to Ethiopia

Bonnie Miller Rubin | The Reporter   in  ·
January 14, 2015

Dr Gelila Goba has not forgotten where she came from.

Instead of joining a comfortable practice in the US after completing her residency in obstetrics and gynecology at Northwestern University, Dr Gelila instead will be caring for patients in her native Ethiopia, where in many communities light and heat qualify as luxuries.

After she graduates in May, Dr Gelila plans to move back to Ethiopia to implement a new initiative that she hopes will improve the state of women’s health in the desperately poor country of 90 million.

“A lot has been given to me,” Dr Gelila said, during a break at Prentice Women’s Hospital. “I must make sure that I use those gifts wisely.”

The program is a partnership between Northwestern and Mekelle universities. It provides medical education, clinical training and research in sub-Saharan Africa, where acute doctor shortages and women’s health continue to be vexing problems.

In Ethiopia, the maternal mortality rate is twice the global average, and the rate of death from cervical cancer is almost seven times higher than in the US, according to the World Health Organization. The entire country has about 220 OB-GYNs nationwide — roughly the same number as Northwestern Memorial Hospital alone, according to university officials.

Residency programs are rare in Ethiopia. After students earn medical degrees, they often become general practitioners and work in district hospitals, experts said. OB-GYN sub-specialties such as oncology, high risk obstetrics and fertility are virtually nonexistent. Some doctors seek training abroad, but it has not been standardized. The Mela Project aims to raise the bar and formalize residency training.

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