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Dr. Rahel Nardos, a urogynecologist at Kaiser Permanente in Clackamas, recently returned from a humanitarian trip to train more Ethiopian doctors to prevent and treat devastating childbirth injuries.


SUBMITTED PHOTO - Dr. Rahel Nardos (right) celebrates a recovery with a patient at Mekelle Univerity's Ayder Hospital.Nardos traveled to her native Ethiopia from Jan. 30 through Feb. 15 with a team from Oregon Health & Science University, where she is an assistant professor in research and global health. Their trip involved an intensive schedule of prolapse repair surgeries (using Kaiser and OHSU’s donated medical instruments) and teaching at Mekelle University’s Ayder Referral Hospital and the Mekelle Hamlin Fistula Center.

Nardos recently joined the governing Board of the Worldwide Fistula Fund (WFF). WFF founder Dr. L. Lewis Wall is working to strengthen the obstetrics-gynecology department and develop collaborations with U.S. universities to address a broad vision to prevent obstetric fistula and increase capacity and access to expert care by training more African OB-GYNs. Dr. Nardos had previously founded with her OHSU colleagues, a health initiative providing free uterovaginal prolapse surgeries to rural women in Ethiopia, Footsteps to Healing.

Worldwide Fistula Fund helps heal women and girls with obstetric fistula, a childbirth injury sustained during prolonged, obstructed labor when a baby cannot fit through a mother’s birth canal. Pressure from obstructed labor destroys tissue normally separating the mother’s vagina from her bladder or rectum, leaving a hole with continuous, uncontrollable leakage of urine or feces.

Nardos recently spoke with the International Museum of Women about the estimated 2 million girls and women in developing nations currently suffer from preventable and treatable obstetric fistulas:

“These women are embarrassed, depressed and, on top of that, stigmatized for something they can’t control. They don’t mix with society because of their odor. Their husbands most likely leave them. Their babies die. Over 95 percent of them have lost their pregnancies because babies don’t survive this kind of ordeal. So you are looking at a woman who is not only physically injured, but also socially and psychologically injured. It is terrible.”

Nardos is a Yale School of Medicine graduate with her obstetrics-gynecology residency completed at Washington University. She spent a year caring for women with obstetric fistula at Hamlin Fistula Hospital following her residency. Footsteps to Healing is a health initiative she founded with her OHSU colleagues.

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