Jhpiego kicked off its year-long 40th anniversary celebration at the XX World Congress of the International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics (FIGO) in Rome in October, with a retrospective of its leadership in innovating to save lives. The retrospective featured four prominent Jhpiego alumni and their work to prevent the needless deaths of women and families in their countries.
More than 200 physicians, nurses and midwives from around the world joined Dr. Leslie Mancuso, Jhpiego’s President and Chief Executive Officer, and her leadership team for this special gathering. Distinguished alumni recounted the organization’s 40 years of expertise in developing low-cost, innovative health solutions and its practical experience bringing quality care to women in their communities. The event also highlighted the next generation of global health solutions that will carry forward the progress in reducing maternal deaths, including a new educational initiative to help mothers survive childbirth. The Helping Mothers Survive program—a partnership between Jhpiego and Laerdal Global Health of Norway—helps prepare frontline health workers to address complications at birth, using a birth simulator, the MamaNatalie.
At the Rome event, Laerdal announced the donations of 1,000 MamaNatalies for training programs organized by UNFPA, the International Confederation of Midwives, FIGO and the American Academy of Pediatrics. The simulators have been donated through a “Buy One Gift One” campaign: for each MamaNatalie purchased in a high-income country since late 2010, another simulator is donated for use in training programs in low-resource nations.
This unique partnership continues Jhpiego’s tradition of innovating to save lives and developing skilled, competent and confident health providers who are contributing to the health and welfare of their countries.
“As I reflected on the accomplishments and successes we are most proud of over the last 40 years, one stood out almost immediately, the people,” said Dr. Mancuso. “Jhpiego is very proud of our success in developing a global health workforce that not only keeps women and families alive and healthy, but that shares what they’ve learned with students, their colleagues and communities.”
In personal recollections and professional reminiscences, the four keynote speakers helped tell the story of Jhpiego’s history from its early days—building the capacity of physicians from Africa, Asia and Latin America in the latest reproductive health technology—to its groundbreaking work preventing cervical cancer with a low-cost, single visit, screen-and-treat approach that is serving hundreds of thousands of women today.
Dr. Gamal Serour, the President of FIGO, shared with the audience the invitation he received from Dr. Howard W. Jones, Jhpiego’s first director—an invitation that changed the course of his career. A young physician in Cairo at the time, Serour helped pave the way for the first Jhpiego-supported, regional overseas reproductive health training center in the Middle East.
“Indeed it is very thrilling for me to be here to celebrate Jhpiego’s 40th anniversary. Jhpiego is very, very close to me because my relationship goes back to its inception,” said Serour, who ran the laparoscopic training center at Al-Azhar University, among the leading higher education institutions in the Arab world. “Jhpiego has been an active, big player in women’s health on the international scene until today.”
From those early days at Al-Azhar to his presidency of FIGO, Serour has been a close ally and partner of Jhpiego’s, most recently working together to prevent maternal deaths from pre-eclampsia/eclampia.
During the 1960s, Dr. Khunying Kobchitt “Kobbie” Limpaphayom, of Chulalongkorn University in Thailand, was a student of Dr. Theodore M. King, Jhpiego’s founder. After graduating from medical school, she was invited to join a team that would learn the latest in laparoscopic surgery for family planning. She returned to Thailand, newly trained, and hand-carrying a laparoscope on the plane to ensure that her colleagues in Thailand had the best equipment; 10 more laparoscopes followed in her luggage.
Limpaphayom worked with Jhpiego in its pioneering research project on a low-cost, innovative screening approach for cervical cancer, and helped scale it up in Thailand. Jhpiego’s success with visual inspection with a vinegar wash was followed by the single visit approach, in which a woman who screens positive for pre-cancerous cells is offered same-day treatment with cryotherapy.
The screen-and-treat approach is the gold standard for providing safe, effective cervical cancer prevention in the developing world. “We are able to translate research into action,” says Limpaphayom. “I’d like to thank Jhpiego for this chance to work—it’s been 40 years now.”
Dr. Hema Divakar, President-Elect of the Federation of Obstetric and Gynaecological Societies of India (FOGSI), told the audience how a visit in 2002 from Jhpiego’s Vice President and Medical Director, Dr. Harshad Sanghvi, energized her organization and helped launch a program to strengthen emergency obstetric care training. She and a colleague were invited to accompany Dr. Sanghvi on assessment visits to medical colleges. Soon she and Dr. Parul Kotadawalla were following Sanghvi’s lead, contributing to the assessment process and reaching their own conclusions on how to strengthen the capacity of the institutions they visited to provide high-quality services.
That episode in “task-shifting” led Divakar and her colleagues at FOGSI on a new path to ensuring that women in India had access to competent emergency obstetric care to survive childbirth. More than 100 medical officers’ skills in emergency obstetric and newborn care were strengthened. The Government of India supported FOGSI’s efforts. “Commitment to quality became a habit,” Divakar told the audience in October, and the initiative that Divakar and her colleagues started continues to this day.
“We have learned to innovate and inspire—we have learned to think out of the box,” said Divakar, one of Jhpiego’s distinguished alumnae. “We dare to explore and figure out what works for us and we have matured to share and network and bring it to scale.”
Divakar poignantly summed up the impact of Jhpiego on her career with a quote from Archbishop Desmond Tutu: “I am because you are.”
Sanghvi, who is also an alumnus, concluded the evening conversation with an inspirational call to action to continue developing low-cost interventions that can be scaled up and help the most marginalized and neglected. He stressed the importance of investing in health care worker education and professional mentoring and the role of partnerships in bringing about change that saves lives.
“We are in the business of creating change,” said Sanghvi. “We create change—because the current situation regarding the very high mortality and morbidity in our nations is unacceptable. We create change—because the inequity in access to health care between poor and rich people is unacceptable in civilized nations. We create change—because we already possess, and have possessed for quite a while, the scientific evidence and the technology for major interventions that can save millions of lives today. But most importantly of all, we create change—because we care.”
After such an exciting kick-start to our anniversary year, Jhpiego looks toward a year of celebrations around the world, recognizing the champions with whom we have worked globally and the impressive accomplishments achieved.