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Collaboration will work to better global women’s health

UNC has made a new global commitment to women’s health.

On March 8, International Women’s Day, UNC’s Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology and its Institute for Global Health and Infectious Diseases announced the creation of UNC Global Women’s Health.

“By creating this division, it is a visible manifestation of a commitment to the area and investment in this topic,” said Dr. Myron Cohen, public health director of the Institute of Global Health and Infectious Diseases.

Global Women’s Health, which collaborates with health centers in Malawi and Zambia, is the department’s newest division.

The division is also the largest of its kind, said Dr. Jeffrey Wilkinson, associate professor in the Obstetrics and Gynecology department, in an email.

Wilkinson said the recruitment of new faculty in the Center for Infectious Disease Research in Zambia allowed for the division to be created.

Dr. Jeffrey Stringer, founder of the center in Zambia, will head the division, Cohen said.

The division will focus on providing health services and research to women worldwide, especially in resource-deprived areas, said Dr. Daniel Clarke-Pearson, chairman of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at UNC, in an email.

The collaboration’s research is centered on finding treatments for HIV and AIDS, improving pregnancy outcomes and child health.

“We try to keep the patients front and center in our planning, so that we never forget whom we are there to serve,” Wilkinson said.

The new division will supply training for cervical cancer screenings, fistula reconstruction and procedures to prevent maternal deaths and childbirth injuries.

“A major focus will be to raise the profile of global health within the OB-GYN specialty and to train the next generation of OB-GYN leaders in global health,” Wilkinson said.

Cohen said this group of professionals is unique.

“We’ve never hired a team of people like this. Rarely would such a team be recruitable and so talented,” Cohen said.

Members of the division also hope to attract both undergraduate and graduate students to get involved.

“Women’s Global Health will attract new students and faculty who share our interests and commitment to women’s health around the world,” Clarke-Pearson said.

He said 500,000 women die from childbirth each year.

“We have the opportunity to significantly impact that sad statistic through our programs, which we hope will serve as a model for others to follow,” he said.

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