Guest Blog — The New Normal: When Women Advocate For Women
December 11, 2017
Guest blog by Tracy Spitznagle, WFF Board Member
Board Member Tracy Spitznagle is a women’s health physical therapy specialist who regularly provides education for our programs in Ethiopia. She trains Africans in advanced physical therapy techniques to enable them to grow their clinical expertise related to maternal health, which is critical to the country’s development. Ethiopia has a severe shortage of health professionals — just 0.7 per 1,000 people. The World Health Organization recommends 2.3 per 1,000.
Physical therapy is a vital component to the recovery of women and girls who’ve suffered from childbirth injuries. Your investment in Africans’ education will ensure they have the foundation necessary to care for mothers across sub-Saharan Africa.
As I reflect over the past year, I am so very amazed at the experiences I have had both facilitating education for the team at Ayder Referral Hospital in Ethiopia and providing it.
A very special part of this experience for me has been the opportunity to advocate for the inclusion of more female physical therapists in advanced degree programs.
It came to my attention that one physical therapist whom I had previously taught, Tsega, was missing from the class list for physical therapy master’s degree candidates. Her application to the program had been unsuccessful.
But that rejection didn’t stop her from pursuing her dreams.
Tsega took it upon herself to advocate for women on the maternity floors, provide post-partum physical therapy on the morning of their discharge and continually provide care to women being treated for fistula. She also had attended lectures from visiting instructors, including me.
While we were on-site this past year, we advocated for her and she was allowed to participate in the lectures!
Tsega’s quiet but persistent advocacy for women has kept her strong in the presence of administrative duplicity. It is my hope that she will be a graduate of this program one day!
Your support allows me to advocate for women who wish to pursue careers in medicine and educate Africans about maternal health, which is critical to the eradication of childbirth injuries such as fistula.
I’m excited to share that we have 5 graduates to celebrate in December! There are 12 students still in the program, and we now have two physical therapists who have been educating who are women, including Tsega! I also learned on my trip to Mekelle this December that 3 women have been hired to do women’s health!
Their expertise will help so many women and girls suffering from childbirth injuries along with countless other mothers who require skilled care.
Our impact on this program is visible every day. The joy on the faces of the physical therapists I train when they learn a new skill that helps a patient is so very heartwarming!
Supporters like you allowed us to provide hands-on experiences that enhance students’ ability to diagnose movement-related impairments common in their practice.
This allows students to provide high quality healthcare such as safe examination procedures for joint mobilization, muscle strengthening activities for pain, neurological and pregnancy related impairments, and state-of-the-art screenings for diabetic neuropathy, which is an under-recognized but prevalent issue commonly complicating the course of patient care.
Physical therapy is a profession that is underutilized around the world. WFF is lucky to have a founder, board and donors who recognize the value of physical therapy and the need for my profession in the care continuum of women during their childbearing years.
I support WFF to enable more African women to pursue careers in medicine who are held back by misguided cultural norms.
I support WFF to optimize care to women and girls suffering from childbirth injuries.
I support WFF to arm Africans with maternal health education that enables them to help their entire communities, which are in need of dedicated, expert healthcare providers.
I choose to lead in this arena so that others will follow. I hope you’ll join me in advocating for more women pursuing advanced education.