This blog post was contributed by María Laura Casalegno, one of the fifteen Young Champions of Maternal Health chosen by Ashoka and the Maternal Health Task Force at EngenderHealth. This is her final post about her experience as a Young Champion, and you can learn more about her, the other Young Champions, and the program here.
Although I will stay in my current placement for one more month, the Young Champions Program is officially ending.
I cannot believe that this exciting program is coming to an end. It is amazing to see how these nine months passed by so quickly. It seems like just yesterday when we left our homes to start our new lives in our new countries. I am trying to keep track of everything I have lived and everything I have learned. This experience has left me with a lot of knowledge, wisdom, new friends, and new families.
Overall, I have been involved in the organization of several courses, have developed my own project, and have held other important meetings. In everything I’ve done during the past nine months, I’ve sought to make an impact on women’s health and also on the wider community. I have been acquiring medical knowledge, but I have also been learning how to manage an organization. The most important thing, though, is that I have been learning about life, different cultures, and different people.
I participated as a student in several courses organized by PACEMD, my host organization. I took the PALS (Pediatric Advanced Life Support) course and the ALSO (Advanced Life Support in Obstetrics) course. I have obtained my certification as a provider in both courses. I have also participated in a Critical Obstetrics Course. I organized an international meeting about sexual assault aimed to launch the SART (Sexual Assault Response Team) Program in Mexico. I have been in contact and I have taken part in several meetings with the Federal Ministry of Health. The supportive relationship between PACEMD and the Ministry of Health was and is the key to establish the ALSO Program as one of the main federal strategies to decrease maternal and newborn morbidity and mortality nationwide.
I have also been collaborating with the Women’s Institute. They have a Health Mobile Unit which goes to rural communities and hold workshops about Sexual and Reproductive Health; the nurses perform pap smears as well. During the last month I collaborated with Formación y Capacitación (FOCA), an organization which has a collaborative alliance with PACEMD. Next year I am going to work with them and PACEMD in developing the Obstetrical First Responder for Communities (OFRC) Program.
All the knowledge that I have obtained has made me more committed to the maternal health field. I will continue working in this field, I will continue learning from experts, and I will continue developing projects and ideas to achieve the goal of decreasing maternal mortality rates and to give women tools to improve their own health.
As I expressed in other blogs, I will stay in Mexico for one more year, working with PACEMD in the development of several maternal, sexual and reproductive health projects. I will be coordinating the ALSO, BLSO and OFRC Programs in Mexico and probably in some other countries in Latin America. I will be working with rural and indigenous communities where women are the most affected by lack of access to health services (a social inequity reflected in the high maternal mortality rates in these areas). With Dr. Haywood Hall and some other key people from the ALSO Program, we are developing a project that will shift the paradigm in the management of obstetrical emergencies. The project will focus on training systems, providers of different levels of medical attention, and different institutions. The main goal is to train providers from the first level (communities) to the third level of attention, strengthening the chain of survival and ensuring that every woman has access to optimal care when she faces an emergency. To do this, we are going to use the proven experience with ALSO, BLSO and OFRC training.
My experience in Mexico was great and I think it will be even better next year. And, what can I say about all the amazing people I have met along this long journey? All the Young Champions, the Maternal Health Task Force and Ashoka staff, and all the people from the PACE office in Mexico became my new family around the world. It is so rewarding to meet people who want to “change the world” and make it a better place.
I am really happy I have been a part of this program. And I think this group of Young Champions is just getting started as the next generation of changemakers!