In Uganda, the maternal death rate is nearly 37 times that of Canada —it is a heartbreaking and preventable statistic, as the affected Ugandan women simply lack trained healthcare providers and transportation to medical care, among other basic issues.
Each year, 8 to 12 UBC Midwifery students travel to Uganda on practicums, providing invaluable healthcare services to these women in need and, in return, receiving a profound education in a very short time by working with few resources in a crowded, cross-cultural setting. It’s a career-deepening experience for every student who gets to go.
Former faculty member Angela Spencer wants more Midwifery students to have this Uganda experience and has arranged a planned gift to support the practicum program. Currently, students must pay for their own flights and living expenses and the cost can deter many. As a past Clinical Education Coordinator and Clinical Associate Professor in UBC’s Division of Midwifery, Spencer knows first-hand the long-term educational value of the Uganda practicums and wants her planned gift to help less-advantaged Midwifery students make the eye-opening trip.
“When you’re at university, you don’t really see the incremental steps of the students’ learning because it happens over the space of four years, but here in a space of two or three days… they’ve got the confidence and you can see them achieving their goals,” says Spencer.
Spencer has travelled to Uganda five times. She reports that medical facilities lack a number of trained staff and medical equipment and some women die in overcrowded wards due to arriving late to care. Despite universal health care, Ms. Spencer says that patients must often bring basic medical equipment, such as sutures and gloves.
The UBC Midwifery Students Global Placement program contributes helping hands to this stressed system in Uganda, along with workshops on topics such as infant resuscitation and preparedness for newborn delivery. The program also provides medical supplies and training equipment to hospitals and health centres.
Along with student support, Spencer’s motivation for contributing to this program lies in her passion for women’s health issues, especially birth rights. Her interest in this area led Spencer to leave her position as Midwifery’s Clinical Education Coordinator to study global health education.
“If you teach the mother how to make choices for her health, she will help the family make choices for their health,” says Spencer.
Spencer sympathizes with the plight of women in Uganda as they struggle with poverty and is quick to note their strength and resilience. To Spencer, no one could be more deserving of her help.