Higher education takes us further

Higher education takes us further

Dr. Sharon participates in a three-day training opportunity, leading her group in clinical mentorship, at a Mother Baby Friendly Hospital.

One of the most powerful aspects of my role here at Save the Mothers (STM) has been interacting with the students of the Master of Public Health Leadership Program. Whether on field trips, in the class room, giving prompts regarding assignments due, or interviewing applicants for the next intake — I am constantly reminded of their dedication to safe motherhood.

Near the beginning of my tour of duty here, I was introduced to Diane and Sharon. Diane is a long-time Canadian supporter of Save the Mothers, and Sharon is a young Ugandan woman, whom Diane had sponsored through Compassion International since Sharon was 13. Such sponsorships generally end after secondary school, but Diane and Sharon’s connection and commitment to each other led to a longer term of support — through Sharon’s university years. After years of exchanging messages, letters and gifts, these two women were finally able to meet. It was beautiful to witness their meeting and interactions as they spent time together in Uganda. Sharon had just finished her education and training to become a doctor — with help and encouragement from Diane — and we were all very proud of her.

Fast forward eight months, as Save the Mothers’ Mother Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative sponsors a training for midwives and nurses on neo-natal resuscitation and newborn care, taught by Dr. Flavia, a leading trainer for the Helping Babies Breathe initiative. Our STM team joined a team of 27 midwives, doctors, anesthesiologists and nurses from two of our partner hospitals, and the lower level health facilities that refer to them. Upon entering the hospital, I was greeted with a big hug and warm smile; Dr. Sharon is now working in the maternity ward at one of our Mother Baby Friendly Hospitals! Excited about the opportunity to participate in the training, she was eager to update her skills and knowledge on the guidelines and practice of newborn care. Dr. Sharon demonstrated leadership and enthusiasm throughout the training, working in her small groups for hands-on experience. She also travelled to Kampala to shadow Dr. Flavia and her colleagues on their rounds in the neonatal unit at the National Referral Hospital.

Seeing Dr. Sharon and her colleagues’ dedication and interest in learning, even from a three-day training opportunity, reinforced the importance of higher-education programs like the MPHL. In my previous experiences here in Uganda, I worked with Orphans and Vulnerable Children; helping to ensure children stayed in school. Those children had ambitions to become the professionals I interact with today at Save the Mothers — that is, they wanted to be doctors, lawyers, politicians, journalists and teachers. Today, the people I see who come to Save the Mothers from such backgrounds continue to display ambition and dedication to their education in wanting to study public health leadership. Children and working professionals; they represent different ends of the educational spectrum, but unfortunately, the higher-education end is often overlooked for donor interest and support.

But supporting students through higher-education, particularly in a special interest area like the Master of Public Health Leadership, gives dedicated adults tools and focus to become advocates and Game Changers in their communities. Supporting young children in school is incredibly important; we know education is fundamental in reducing poverty and improving health. However, unless we address issues of maternal health and the complexities surrounding it, there will continue to be countless motherless children in need of such support. By supporting students to become safe motherhood advocates, we ensure more children have healthy, safe mothers to help them grow to maturity.

Dr. Sharon continues her path of education and safe motherhood. She specializes in obstetrics and hopes to continue working with newborns and in the maternity ward. Diane hopes to one-day sponsor Dr. Sharon through the MPHL program. Our students from across East Africa depend on Save the Mothers’ supporters and scholarships. With more than 450 students who have come through the program over the past 12 years, such support is a clear investment in reducing maternal mortality.

Our students and alumni are impacting the mothers and the lives of future generations in their communities. Consider supporting our students through their Masters of Public Health Leadership program as your contribution to reducing maternal mortality.

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Read more about Dr. Sharon and Diane’s story here.

About the Author:

Jess Huston
Jess Huston (from Ontario, Canada) is serving Save the Mothers as program intern for the 2016/17 academic year. She is a graduate from the University of Waterloo, with a Bachelor of Arts in Sexuality, Marriage and Family Studies.

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