University launches reproductive health center in Ethiopia

By Rachel Waddell, For the Daily
Published February 18, 2015

University faculty and students will soon play a role saving lives in a country thousands of miles away.

The University has helped establish a medical partnership in Ethiopia, called the Center for International Reproduction Health Training. Launched Feb. 6 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, the collaboration consists of eight Ethiopian medical schools and a partnership with the Federal Ministry of Health of Ethiopia.

The CIRHT looks to equip future medical doctors with life-saving reproductive health care services, according to Senait Fisseha, the center’s executive director and an associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology.

Fisseha, who was born in Ethiopia, helped create CIRHT and was able to do so in part through an anonymous $25 million grant to the University’s Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology. The program, Fisshea said, is needed in Ethiopia.

“Ethiopia has one of the highest maternal mortality ratios in the world, and one of the contributing factors is the huge unmet need for comprehensive reproductive health care services,” she said.

The CIRHT works to train health care officials and future medical professionals, providing students with hands-on experience in the profession. The program aims to develop new leaders who will stay on and contribute to the health care in Ethiopia.

Fisseha said the graduates’ capabilities have already increased. The demand for health care has also increased as more Ethiopian women seek help from the new program.

The University’s role in Ethiopia will also include the design and creation of projects intended to contribute in other ways. Engineering graduate student Ibrahim Mohedas has been at the forefront of one of these projects.

Mohedas has been to Ethiopia three times with the University, and has played a role in developing a prototype to help insert a long-term contraceptive into the arms of Ethiopian women, a process that generally risks harming muscle tissue. The prototype would safely deliver the contraceptive injection and nullify the risk of muscle damage when removed.

“The long-term goal of a device like this would definitely be to expand access to long-term contraceptives,” Mohedas said. “In the bigger picture, we’re looking at how to design devices specifically for rural areas of low resource settings, where so much of the world’s population is but so few medical devices work.”

The program also focuses on data collection in the country.

Public Health student Belen Michael spent the last summer in Ethiopia engaged in data analysis.

While there, Michael and fellow students were able to interview and discuss issues of fertility and reproduction with men and women in Ethiopian clinics. The data research is still ongoing and Michael said the information has provided insight into both medical and cultural perspectives in Ethiopia.

“What I got was trying to find this balance of being culturally sensitive, but still trying to bring these beneficial methods to women,” Michael said.