The introduction of laparoscopy is ranked as one of the most important advances in obstetrics and gynecology. Laparoscopy provides specialists with a remarkable diagnostic tool for viewing reproductive organs, as well as an agile therapeutic and surgical instrument for tubal ligations. And it was the introduction of laparoscopy as part of Jhpiego’s early focus on reproductive health in the late 1970s and early 1980s that helped establish us as a world leader in reproductive health and family planning.
Jhpiego trained 5,000 physicians, nurses and maintenance personnel from more than 1,300 institutions in 108 countries in laparoscopy, and shipped more than 5,000 laparoscopes to numerous medical schools and teaching hospitals around the globe. Some 90 percent of the medical schools in the developing world were recipients of laparoscopic equipment donated by Jhpiego, which helped the staff at these institutions receive a thorough grounding in reproductive and women’s health care.
The individuals who benefited from this early training in reproductive health and laparoscopy emerged as the leaders of Jhpiego’s in-country programs. As Jhpiego ended its laparoscopy training in the early 1980s, many of those who were trained in courses both in the U.S. and overseas became Jhpiego project directors responsible for leading Jhpiego-supported programs in their own countries, including Tunisia, Kenya, Morocco and the Philippines. Some emerged as world leaders in reproductive health, such as Dr. Gamal Serour, Director of the Reproductive Health Training Center at Alzhar University in Cairo, Egypt, who later was elected President of the International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics (FIGO); Professor O. A. Ladipo from the University of Ibadan in Nigeria, who established the very successful Society for Reproductive Health in Nigeria; and Professor Khunying Kobchitt Limpapapahyom, former Secretary General of the Royal Thai College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists and Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok.
Jhpiego’s work in laparoscopy helped voluntary surgical sterilization become a safer, simpler and less expensive option for thousands of women who chose this form of contraception. This innovation, and the training in its use and application, allowed other aspects of women’s reproductive health, such as management of infertility, to be addressed. Furthermore, Jhpiego’s early work in laparoscopy provided the foundation for our current work with technology transfer and institutionalization.