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Drexel/Rotary International Expands Maternal and Child Healthcare Training in Uganda

April 27, 2015

The Maternal and Child Health Care Project between Drexel University and Makerere University School of Health in Kampala, Uganda, continues to grow. A team recently returned from a multi-week mission that addressed the maternal and infant mortality rate in the East African country, where 16 mothers die in childbirth every day. Thanks to continued support from Rotary International and Rotary Clubs in both Pennsylvania and Uganda, this unique partnership has flourished.

The Vocational Training Team (VTT) from Drexel, including Owen Montgomery, MD, chair of the Department of Obstetrics & Gynecology at the College of Medicine, and Michelle Rogers, PhD, associate professor, College of Computing & Informatics, was in Uganda during most of February. They were joined by Drexel College of Engineering alumnus Ron Smith, PhD, '85, a member of the Rotary Club of Blue Bell and a recipient of Drexel University's Alumni Association's Service to Community Award, and his son Ryan Smith, MD, '13, a College of Medicine alumnus. The VTT conducted a grand rounds session between the two medical schools and made significant progress towards this year's goals:

  • Upgrading mother and child healthcare skills at four health centers
  • Providing maternal and infant training in two health districts
  • Upgrading technology to ensure adequate connectivity between the medical schools
  • Developing a regular distance learning education seminar series

Drexel/Rotary International Expands Maternal and Child Healthcare Training in Uganda

"This project connects two distinct universities so that each can learn from one another with the hopes of establishing a long-term, mutually beneficial relationship that crosses oceans and cultures," said Montgomery. "This unique project is living the strategic vision of Drexel being a global university. Numerous Drexel colleges and schools are participating in this effort by providing their expertise in clinical, technological and educational strategies."

"With the help of Makerere University IT staff, we began the installation of the Global Library of Women's Medicine (GLOWM) on computer networks at four health clinics surrounding Mulago Hospital for the purpose of distance health care education, supported by the International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics (FIGO)," said Rogers. "In addition, we identified midwives and local community workers to serve as contact persons and lead educators in utilizing the information technology in clinical training."

The VTT was first set up in early 2014 as part of an exchange of ideas, technology and staff to find ways to reduce mortality and morbidity during and after childbirth and to improve access to essential medical services. VTT made their first trip that same year bringing medical teams (ob/gyns, midwives, nurses) and technology experts from Drexel to help expand access to health information and connect Makerere with community health centers.

Joanne Messerschmidt, president of Rotary of Blue Bell, said, "Our club is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year and it is so relevant to us that Ron, a founding member, has stretched our club beyond its imagination at this time."

In addition to Montgomery, Rogers and the Smiths, this year's VTT was made up of: Gregg Alleyne, MD, Laniece Coleman, DrNP, CNM, and Margaret McMahon, CNM, all from the College of Medicine; Shannon Marquez, PhD, MEng, School of Public Health; Yanick Vibert, MD, and Marilyn Mendoza, MD, both from St. Christopher's Hospital for Children; and Terry Reed from the Rotary Club.

This latest trip is just one part of the ongoing relationship between Drexel and Makerere, which will eventually provide distance education between the two. In mid-2014, Drexel was pleased to host a group from Makerere, which visited the College of Medicine campus and simulation facilities, as well as other Philadelphia health centers. Another team visit to our area is planned for May 2015.

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