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In the News

Lake City Area’s Michael Wittek Named Board Chair for Worldwide Fistula Fund

February 26, 2015

Retired Health Industry Executive Committed to Improving Services for Women in Africa

WFF Headquarters: Schaumburg, IL — Accessible health care advocate Michael Wittek is named Worldwide Fistula Fund (WFF) Board Chair to deliver health services for underserved women in sub-Saharan Africa.

Michael R. Wittek originally joined the WFF Board of Directors in late 2012 to continue his work advocating for access to preventive and interventional health care. Mr. Wittek previously ensured patient access to health care from multiple perspectives. He managed employee health benefits for a global computer firm and served on the Health Technology Assessment Committee for one of Minnesota’s largest health plans.

Most recently, at Medtronic, Inc, Mr. Wittek paved the way for patient access to a number of new and novel device therapies, including some designated “humanitarian use devices.” Mr. Wittek was responsible for health policy and planning for gastroenterology and urology in Medtronic’s Neuromodulation Division. Medtronic manufactures medical devices that leverage technology to transform treatment of debilitating, chronic diseases.

Additionally, Chris Payne is named Vice Chair; past Board Chair, Nancy Muller, now serves as Treasurer and Terry J. Wall is named Secretary. Our Founder, L. Lewis Wall, has made time to rejoin the Board as Director Emeritus.

WFF is dedicated to eradicating obstetric fistula, a devastating childbirth injury sustained during prolonged, obstructed labor when a baby cannot fit through a mother’s birth canal. Pressure from obstructed labor destroys tissue normally separating the mother’s vagina from her bladder or rectum – leaving a hole with continuous, uncontrollable leakage of urine or feces.

A woman suffering an obstetric fistula is often abandoned by her husband, shunned by her community and living in isolation. An estimated two million girls and women in developing nations currently suffer from an obstetric fistula. Obstetric fistula is both preventable and treatable.

Built by WFF, Danja Fistula Center (DFC) in Niger has performed over 500 surgeries to date at no cost to the patients. All surgical and clinical care is provided by our African expert fistula surgeon. With local partner, TERREWODE, WFF supports treatment and fistula survivor training through the Women’s Reintegration Center in Uganda. A network of community advocacy groups identifies and refers Ugandan women in need of care, provides support through survivor peer groups and prevents fistula through community education. WFF empowers fistula survivors in both Niger and Uganda with literacy education and skills to earn income once they return home. Tailoring, commercial food preparation, creating perfume and making jewelry are some of the vocational classes available.

By Training OB-GYNs in Ethiopia, WFF helps prevent obstetric fistulas insub-Saharan Africa and increases access to expert care. WFF Founder, Dr. Wall, helped Mekelle University in Ethiopia develop collaborative partnerships to: enhance residency training in obstetrics-gynecology, bring experts in reconstructive pelvic surgery to Ethiopia, develop Ethiopia’s first sub-specialist fellowship training program in urogynecology and conduct research into patient outcomes to improve future clinical treatment protocols.

To interview Mr. Wittek or learn more about WFF please contact Director of Communications, Soja Orlowski, at or call (847) 264-5971 (day), (312) 342-8896 (eve.).

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