Advocacy & Health Policy: ACOG Well Represented Internationally with FIGO by Ralph Hale, MD, FACOG

Congratulations to Ralph Hale, MD, FACOG, on his election as honorary treasurer of the International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics (FIGO). Dr. Hale is the former executive vice president of ACOG.

We caught up with Dr. Hale to discuss his new position and how his role fits with FIGO’s mission to advocate for women’s health care and higher standards of practice in obstetrics and gynecology.

ACOG Rounds: How did you come to be interested in the honorary treasurer post at FIGO?

Dr. Hale: I became interested in the position after encouragement from ACOG, since we do not have and have not had anyone in an officer’s position at FIGO for a long time. I was encouraged to run and supported by Hal Lawrence, MD and James Martin Jr., MD, as well as past FIGO President, John Sciarra, MD. Much of FIGO’s activity is dictated by the officers, and they felt it important that ACOG have some representation.

ACOG Rounds: What role does FIGO play in global women's health?

Dr. Hale: FIGO is the international ob-gyn society for all countries with organized societies. ACOG is one of the founding members and the largest in terms of actual membership.  As such, ACOG has been extremely active in FIGO and has had a seat on the Executive Board for most of its existence. I served on the Executive Board of FIGO for 13 of the 18 years I was the executive vice president at ACOG.     

The World Health Organization also recognizes FIGO as the ob-gyn organization for worldwide activities and, as such, FIGO many projects in many countries, especially lesser developed ones.

ACOG Rounds: Where does FIGO get funding from?

Dr. Hale: Besides the dues that each country pays to be a member, FIGO gets grants and support from countries, companies, foundations, etc.; so most of their projects are funded by external sources, similar to ACOG.

ACOG Rounds: What are some of the most pressing challenges in global women's health today?

Dr. Hale: The challenges are always related to improving women’s health care, with emphasis on post-partum complications, especially hemorrhage, eclampsia, and other life threatening conditions. FIGO is also very focused on contraception and birth planning, especially in areas where multiple births have created many health problems.

ACOG Rounds: Why should ACOG members follow what FIGO is doing or consider attending its conferences?

Dr. Hale: ACOG works closely with FIGO and, in most instances, ACOG and FIGO have the same policies and criteria. ACOG supplies many of the committee members for FIGO and works closely in all areas.

The major scientific activity for all members is the Triennial World Congress, which was held recently in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. This five-day conference brings in the leading specialists in all areas of our discipline to present and educate. Attendance was over 8,000 and most of these are key members of their own countries and universities. A number of the major plenary sessions were by ACOG members. ACOG supports one of the major presentations, the Howard Taylor lecture.

ACOG Rounds: What are some examples of breaking science in global women's health that was presented at the recent Congress?

Dr. Hale: Currently, one major project is postpartum, long-acting contraception, but that is just one of many. I would say that when looked at overall, FIGO is the major worldwide organization focusing on maternal health. They also concentrate on unsafe abortion and other gynecological problems. Recently, they developed a toolkit for infertility as well. Much of FIGO's work is done by its committees and task forces. These committees often set the international standard for conditions that our Fellows deal with daily. One of the most obvious is the gynecologic oncology staging.  

ACOG Rounds: Finally, could you describe the FIGO governance structure?

Dr. Hale: FIGO's structure begins with a general assembly that meets once every three years and, at that time, officers are elected, as well as countries, to be members of the executive board.

Terms of office for the countries is six years, the officers three years. This Executive Board meets once a year to conduct the business of FIGO. The officers meet as an Executive Committee of the Board every three to four months. There are three presidents: a president-elect, current president, and past-president. The other officers are a vice president, honorary secretary and honorary treasurer. FIGO has an executive who has a staff to run the organization on a day to day basis, similar to ACOG. There are five regional areas of the world and the presidency rotates through each of those regions. The last president we had was Dorothy Shaw, MD, from Vancouver, Canada but was nominated by ACOG, as she is a member.

ACOG Rounds wishes to thank Dr. Hale for sharing his thoughts about FIGO, their activities, and his role.


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