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Women’s health volunteerism: Delivering care around the globe, where it’s needed most | NCMA Women's OB/GYN Center
NCMA’s Suzi Saunders, CNM, on providing care to women in countries where access is challenging, like Haiti and the Philippines I have been a certified nurse midwife for 21 years. Having worked with NCMA Women’s OB/GYN Center for nearly 18 of those years, I’m very happy to continue my work both in Sonoma County and in sometimes faraway locales where adequate care is scarce. I truly love women’s health. And let me tell you, there is nothing like holding a brand new baby in your hands! I have long had an interest in providing care to women in countries where access is challenging. In addition to my master’s in nursing at Emory University, I also completed a master’s in public health, with a focus on international health concerns. My public health program emphasized the need for sustainable programs that had a lasting effect rather than “Band-Aid”-type efforts. Most programs rely heavily on donated supplies, and on volunteer labor to sustain them over time. I knew I wanted to make an impact, but wasn’t sure how to get started. My first adventure became a family adventure On the advice of a local colleague, I looked into two programs that had lengthy histories in their host countries, and had made significant impacts on local maternal health. The one I chose in 2011 was with Mercy in Action. It is located in Olongapo, Philippines, which was a nice coincidence, as my brother lived a few hours from there! I wanted my kids to be a part of my efforts. Although they were too young at the time to participate directly, by traveling there with me they could understand why it was important to me. In addition, I wanted them to realize how different life can be outside the U.S. By choosing this project, I could start my adventures as a volunteer, as well as get the kids involved. I participated in a two-week intensive training on providing care in a low-resource environment, in addition to hiking to remote areas to provide needed prenatal and post-partum care to rural Filipina women. It was an …