UNC doctors save lives in Africa

A program at UNC Chapel Hill has UNC doctors saving lives in Zambia and Malawi in Africa
March 1, 2013 3:00:41 PM PST
A program at UNC Chapel Hill has UNC doctors saving lives in Africa -- in Zambia and Malawi.

The group of physicians is making a difference by caring for women who do not have access to medical care and by training healthcare providers.

"There's a lot of disease, a lot of bad things and a lot of sick people and what we try to do is bring what we know about medicine here at UNC to Malawi and Zambia," Dr. Jeff Stringer with UNC Global Women's Health said.

Doctors say the new UNC Global Women's Health Program also allows them to gain knowledge overseas and put it to use here.

"We learn so much there, that we then bring back here to UNC.  We've learned so many things about how to do things efficiently, cost effectively," Stringer said.

Part of the program prevents the transmission of HIV between pregnant women and their babies, which is a huge problem in Zambia.

"We've prevented literally tens of thousands of children in Zambia from becoming infected with HIV," Stringer said.  

Another issue being addressed is one of the highest cervical cancer rates in the world. Women in Zambia don't get pap smears. Dr. Groesbeck Parham is saving grateful women in their early 20s from death.

"Makes me proud that we could save lives of women, that we could prevent their children from becoming orphans from cervical cancer deaths," Parham said.

But the work is not easy.

"It's both tremendously rewarding and tremendously challenging," said Dr. Carla Chibwesha. "We often work without lights and water and it can be hard to work that way."

It is hard work, but the doctors are saving women and babies who may otherwise die during childbirth.

"It's pretty amazing that a state university is committed, not only to the patients in their state but also supporting a global effort," said Dr. Elizabeth Stringer. "The people of North Carolina should feel really good about that and proud of their university."

The program is funded by $31 million in grants.  

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