Guest Blog: Why I Give
December 27, 2019
Guest Blog by Megan Flahive
It wasn’t until the fourth year of medical school when I finally accepted my calling to be an obstetrician-gynecologist. I had just started a new rotation in Maternal-Fetal Medicine, a specialty of OBGYN that focuses on high-risk pregnancies, when I met Dr. Thompson. He was not interested in my knowledge of medicine from textbooks; instead, he was intent on expanding my understanding of the art and history of medicine. Any medical student could master the science of medicine and acquire the knowledge necessary to solve a problem. What distinguishes an exceptional physician from an ordinary physician is to understand the human spirit and treat patients as a whole person: body, mind, and soul.
Charged with expanding my horizons, he assigned the book Cutting For Stone by Abraham Verghese. This novel introduced to me obstetric fistula and called attention to the physical, emotional and social consequences of fistula on a woman’s life. Many women who experience fistula are in prolonged, obstructed labor for days, suffering in pain and often in solitude. Instead of embracing the joy of a newborn child, she grieves for her deceased infant. For many, this nightmare continues for years as she leaks urine and feces uncontrollably, is ostracized from her community and is even abandoned by her family.
Written from the perspective of a physician, this book also provided me with unique insight into the psyche of a doctor when caring for women with this affliction. It was only after reading this Cutting For Stone, I knew I wanted the extraordinary privilege of being part of the solution.
Energized and motivated to take a hands-on approach, I arranged travel to Arusha, Tanzania to work with a fistula surgeon. In addition to an introduction of surgical fistula repair, I also intended to educate women about prevention of unwanted pregnancy with long-acting reversible contraception devices (LARC). I hypothesized that preventing pregnancy would surely decrease the occurrence of fistula and its complications.
To my great surprise, women were not interested in pregnancy prevention! On the contrary, it was the overwhelming majority of women who felt their fertility was their greatest asset. What women wanted was access to health care and available resources necessary to have a healthy pregnancy and safe delivery. My approach has further morphed into the early education of young girls (to prevent early teen pregnancy and child marriage), addressing gender inequality and supporting female empowerment.
I am currently a practicing OBGYN in Chicago, IL where I live with my three beautiful children and loving husband. As a board member of the Flahive Family Foundation, I began a relationship first with One-By-One in 2010 and am happy to continue my support with Worldwide Fistula Fund. Now more than ever, I am confident in the mission and direction of WWF. Please join me in supporting these strong and deserving women and make a pledge to fight fistula.