Global Women's Health Service

The Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of Illinois at Chicago has a commitment to women's health not just in Chicago, but globally as well. Please read on about some of our global health clinical work.

Drs. Stacie Geller, Gelila Goba, and Therese Kirsch are active in women’s health projects across the globe.




Mela Project

The Mela Project

At the end of September, 2015, Dr. Mary Stephenson (Department Head), Dr. Humberto Scoccia, Dr. William Kobak, Dr. Dimitrios Mastrogiannis, and Dr. Tamika Alexander, led by Dr. Gelila Goba spent a week in Tigray, Ethiopia as part of the Mela Project.  The goal of the project was to increase the number of OB/Gyns in Ethiopia through resident training at Mekele University. 

In Ethiopia, 10% of births are assisted by a skilled provider—4% by a doctor and 7% by a nurse or midwife. Less than 1% of births were assisted by a Health Extension Workers, and 57% of births were assisted by a relative, or some other person. Twenty-eight percent of births were assisted by a traditional birth attendant, while 4% of births were unattended. Ethiopia also has one of the lowest health workforce densities in the world.  The high proportion of at-home births coupled with the low number of physicians have contributed to one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the world.

To increase number of OB/Gyns, the government of Ethiopia is undergoing a rapid scale-up of residency training the past 5 years.  The Mela Project was conceived to support Ministry of Health’s efforts in starting an OB/Gyn residency program at Mekele University that will support the education and training of OB/Gyn residents.  This, in turn, will increase the number of OB/Gyns in Ethiopia and reduce maternal mortality. 

The visit in September was to establish a partnership between UIC faculty and Mekele University. Our team of faculty from the Department of Obstetrics & Gynecology at UIC met with the Dean and President of Mekele University to assess the needs of the University and to determine how the UIC Department of OB/Gyn could make a difference in improving care for women.

Our faculty conducted a boot camp for the Mekele interns to enhance their clinical skills, led teaching rounds and didactics with the residents daily, provided patient care and assisted emergency deliveries at Mekele Hospital.

Mekele residents presented their preliminary research project to the UIC faculty who provided critical feedback and encouragement.  Our Department is seeking to offer an accredited Global Women’s Health resident elective at Mekele to give our residents and opportunity to gain exposure to global women’s health work in a low resource setting.


Dr. Therese Kirsch, MD, Assistant Professor in the Department of OB/Gyn recently returned from Georgetown Public Hospital, Guyana.  In collaboration with WONDOOR Dr. Kirsch provided clinical and didactic teaching to Guyanese OB/Gyn residents. 

WONDOOR, based in the University Hospitals/Case Western Medical Center Department of OB/Gyn and Reproductive Biology in collaboration with Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation, the Ministry of Health-Guyana and the University of Guyana, created the first residency program in Obstetrics and Gynecology in the country of Guyana. Guyana currently has the 49th highest Maternal Mortality Ratio (MMR) in the world, with 270 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births. The goal of this program is thus to improve the health care of women in Guyana through the training of qualified OB/Gyn specialists that will remain in the country and improve the physician workforce in the public health sector in Guyana.

The country’s largest hospital, Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation (GPHC), has over 6,000 deliveries per year. The program is now in its third year, has a total of 16 residents.  This four-year training program is well situated to become a sustainable and self-perpetuating force in women’s health care throughout the country. 

Dr. Kirsch has made three trips to Guyana, most recently in January 2015. On this most recent trip, the positive impacts of the residency program were evident throughout the maternity and gynecology units of the hospital. During her stay two years prior, there had been one or two functioning fetal heart monitors on the entire ward, and very few people had the training to interpret the tracings. Now, there are over twelve monitors, with both residents and nurses immediately available and capable of interpretation. Since the start of the program in 2012, donated ultrasound equipment has enabled the residents to obtain skills in diagnosis of early pregnancy failure, ectopic pregnancy, and ovarian pathology. One of the most impactful initiatives has been the residents’ active involvement in developing a series or evidence-based protocols to guide care at GPHC, and in teaching these protocols to nursing staff and midwives.

The focus of this recent trip was to help the residents prepare for the upcoming CREOG exams (administered annually in accordance with ACOG standards) and mock oral board exams. Dr. Kirsch held a series of review sessions throughout the week.  In addition, Dr. Kirsch provided clinical teaching both on the wards and in the operating room by performing hysterectomies and ovarian cystectomies with the residents assisting.


Stacie Geller, PhD works with the Jawaharial Nehru Medical College (JNMC) toward improving maternal health and the development of a family planning curriculum and training program. Julie Chor, MD, previously a Family Planning fellow at UIC, went to India to help develop their curriculum on Family Planning. Dr. Chor also visited primary health centers in rural villages in India to learn more about their services and their educational needs in relation to family planning.


Resident Opportunities for Involvement
Interested residents have multiple opportunities for involvement in global health work by taking part in our work in Guyana or Ethiopia.  Residents can also attend the Center for Global Health network meetings and journal clubs and can become involved in projects with our collaborators;  Dr. Alex Golobof has worked with Dr. Stevan Weine on a project focused on female sex workers in Moscow

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