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Midwives for Haiti

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VCU Partners with Midwives for Haiti to Reduce Infant and
Maternal Mortality

By: Tianna Harris 
VCU Global Education Office
Phone: (804) 828-3636 

RICHMOND, Va. (Dec. 11, 2014)—Virginia Commonwealth University is partnering with Richmond based non-profit organization Midwives for Haiti to offer support to their skilled birth attendant training and reproductive health services offered to women in Haiti.

Janett Forte, MSW, LCSW, assistant clinical professor in the VCU Institute for Women’s Health, received a Departmental Study Abroad award from the VCU Global Education Office, to join Midwives for Haiti initiatives in reducing infant and maternal mortality in Haiti through their 12 month training program which provides Haitian women with the skills needed to deliver pre-natal care and life-saving childbirth services.

The Departmental Study Abroad Program award supports departments or schools seeking to increase study abroad participation by integrating new programs into departmental curricula that promote academic and financial sustainability. This project, in particular, also expands VCU’s ongoing commitment to global health.

According to the project proposal, Ms. Forte found only a few specialized OB/GYN international residency programs in the United States — NYU Langone Medical Center, Maine Medical Center at Tufts University and Duke University School of Medicine. Adding this program to the VCU curriculum could put the “VCU School of Medicine at the forefront by creating a formalized partnership for OB/GYN resident rotations in a low resource global clinical setting.”

“I searched around to find other resident programs that were doing structured global health projects and there are not a lot of them that have these formalized types of opportunities,” Forte said.

According to the Midwives for Haiti website, the underdevelopment of the country and lack of infrastructure and access to medical facilities and emergency transportation has resulted in Haiti becoming the most dangerous country in the Western Hemisphere in which to give birth.

In Haiti many mothers do not receive the proper care they need and only roughly 25 percent of births are attended by a skilled provider.

“I knew that if students were interested in global health, a developing country like Haiti would be a place where  they could really learn a lot about providing maternal and infant care in a low resource setting,” Forte said.

The proposed project is aimed at expanding the volunteer network of health professionals working with Midwives for Haiti from VCU by creating a regular rotation site for VCU OB/GYN residents and a two week delegation of cross-disciplinary VCU medical, nursing, social work and other health discipline students to work alongside Haitian doctors, students, midwives, matrons and U.S. based volunteers.

The award  provides the opportunities for one  OB/GYN third year resident who will spend a month rotation in Haiti and a team of nine students including medicine, nursing, social work, occupational therapy students and a midwife to partake in a two or three week delegation. The team will work together on this global women’s health project in Hinche, located in central Haiti. They will work with the training program instructors and Haitian doctors in the hospital as well as accompany Haitian midwives in mobile clinics and at a new birth center.  The team will also be piloting a group prenatal curriculum that will be offered at some of the 20 villages served by the mobile clinic program.

“The resident will actually be able to participate in cesarean sections and surgeries or gynecological services, as well as participate in deliveries,” Forte said.

Students for the project have been selected and will participate in a pre-trip orientation scheduled for February 2015 before leaving for Haiti. Once the group has returned, Forte will begin an evaluation process to gauge the success of the program and develop future plans.

“I plan to do a de-briefing and then look at how we can continue it,” Forte said. “I will also get input from the Midwives for Haiti group to see if it was useful to them, decide where to go from there, and how I would make it available at VCU for other future students.”

Forte stated she is excited to be building this bridge between VCU and this Richmond-based maternal health program. “Offering students the opportunity to study, learn and engage with communities in Haiti feels like a significant partnership and provides a meaningful service,” she said.


For more information about Midwives for Haiti, visit midwivesforhaiti.org

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