How to get involved

Dominican Republic Training

Dr. Taraneh Shirazian, in the middle, teaches local residents how to write a post-op note on her most recent trip to the Dominican Republic.

Taraneh Shirazian, MD, has tried to estimate the number of organizations offering global health trips and programs for physicians. It’s a number she has yet to reach.

“There are so many people who are committed to global health work and so many different types of organizations that work abroad that it’s difficult to get an exact number,” said Dr. Shirazian, who teaches a global women’s health course for ob-gyn residents in New York City and is the editor of the forthcoming Around the Globe for Women’s Health: A Practical Guide for the Health Care Provider.

The good news is that ob-gyns have lots of options, from university-associated programs to nonprofits. The bad news is that it can be hard to find groups with sustainable programs. Dr. Shirazian, also the cofounder and medical director of the nonprofit Saving Mothers, recommends asking the following questions of both the organization and yourself:

  • What’s the purpose or mission of this group?
  • Has the organization led groups to this location before? How many times?
  • What community does the organization hope to serve and what are the women’s health needs you can expect to encounter?
  • How do the organization and physicians give back to the community?
  • How is the local community involved in the health care being provided?

Once you know which group you want to travel with, know that it’s more complicated and challenging than working at home.

“What I love in our field is that people want to give back—they want to go abroad and do great work and effect change,” Dr. Shirazian said. “The problem is that if you aren’t aware of all the potential challenges you might face, you’re going to find yourself very limited in what you can offer. You also may find yourself feeling very conflicted once you’re there.”

Groups to consider

These are a few of the global programs ob-gyns may want to consider.

Seed Global Health

This group, which works in partnership with the Peace Corps and was co-founded by Vanessa Kerry, MD, daughter of Secretary of State John Kerry, will send its inaugural group of 31 doctors and nurses to Africa this year to train and educate the local medical community. About 20% of participating areas say they are looking for ob-gyn training, Dr. Kerry said. The commitment is one year. Apply at

The Central American Gynecologic Oncology Education Program

Every six months, two gynecologic oncologists travel to Central America to help train residents on how to treat gynecologic cancers. The program usually consists of one day of lectures and two days of surgery and patient rounds. Applicants must speak Spanish and have a strong interest in teaching. Contact Kathleen Schmeler at

Foundation for International Urogynecological Assistance

IUGA is seeking fellowship-trained general urogynecologists to participate in a pilot program in Ghana in collaboration with the Ghana College of Physicians and Surgeons. Academic appointments and experience working in and training in developing nations is a must. Contact


Photo courtesy of Robert Christine

Copyright 2013, ACOG Today, Office of Communications,

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