Xavier Magazine

Alumni Profile: Medical Missionary

Dr. Carol Egner
Bachelor of Science in biology,
1978 Staff physician, Women Partners in OB GYN

Trouble in Madagascar | The African island nation is a dangerous place to be pregnant. For every 100,000 births, 440 women die in childbirth, compared to 24 in the U.S. Babies are six times more likely to die than their American peers.

Mother-Baby Initiative | Every year Dr. Carol Egner spends two weeks in Madagascar trying to change that. Egner, a Cincinnati obstetrician/gynecologist, returns in September for her fifth visit helping the Caring Response Madagascar Foundation with its Mother-Baby Initiative.

Feeling a Calling | Though she describes herself as “not very adventurous,” she ended up 6,000 miles away, being greeted by strangers in African villages, after learning about the Caring Response Foundation, launched by a woman named Virginia Wiltse.

Caring Response | The idea of doing medical mission work appealed to Egner, and meeting Wiltse sealed the deal. Caring Response also runs literacy centers, a water-purification program, micro-lending and other initiatives,  concentrating on needs that others aren’t meeting.

Needs vs. Wants | “The poverty is overwhelming, and yet the people are so kind and receptive. We show up to a village to set up a clinic, and we’re always greeted with song and dance and food,” Egner says. “Their whole lives are about what they need and not what they want.”

Saving Mother’s Lives | In Madagascar, Egner teaches doctors and midwives the basics of delivering healthy babies while preserving the mothers’ safety. She starts with how to prevent and treat post-partum hemorrhage, the leading cause of maternal deaths there. Students also learn vacuum extraction, infant resuscitation and other skills.

Stocking Up | In addition to volunteering her time and paying her own way, Egner contacts medical-equipment manufacturers and companies to bring as many supplies with her as she can when she travels. The first year, the foundation shipped maternity beds, baby warmers and other supplies to better prepare clinics for births.

The Grapevine | The foundation also sent an ultrasound machine to a region that had no familiarity with the technology. Egner used it on a pregnant midwife who was one of her students. Early the next day, in an area void of social media, 20 pregnant women were standing in line at the clinic, all eager to see images of their babies.

House Calls | Egner also travels to surrounding villages to provide care for people who have walked for days. The initiative is also teaching caregivers how to keep pre-natal, delivery and post-partum records so they can track outcomes among their patients.

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