Rahel Nardos, M.D. ’03, director of global health in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Oregon Health & Science University, was recently elected secretary of the Worldwide Fistula Fund (WFF) Board of Directors. Nardos has been key in developing and growing WFF’s collaborative medical education programs in Ethiopia to increase access to quality maternal care and build capacity in the developing world.
Nardos makes multiple trips each year to provide surgeries to women suffering from childbirth injuries in Ethiopia. Founded in 1995, WFF partners with local organizations and institutions to enable Africans to address women’s health care needs.
Although childbirth injuries like obstetric fistula are both preventable and treatable, an estimated one million girls and women currently suffer from this injury in the developing world. Caused by prolonged, obstructed labor, obstetric fistula leaves a woman incontinent. In addition to treatment, WFF provides social reintegration services and promotes prevention through doctor and community health advocacy training to improve the overall safety of childbirth. WFF also treats women with pelvic organ prolapse, another devastating childbirth injury, resulting in the bulging or falling of the vaginal tissues.
Nardos was born and raised in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. She completed her residency in obstetrics and gynecology at Washington University in St. Louis. With a grant from WFF, Nardos followed her residency with a year as staff surgeon at Hamlin Fistula Hospital and its satellite medical centers in Ethiopia. She returned to the United States to complete a fellowship in female pelvic medicine and reconstructive surgery, known as urogynecology. She also attained her master’s degree in clinical research at Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU).
Nardos holds positions as lead urogynecologist at Kaiser Permanente Northwest and director of global health in obstetrics and gynecology at OHSU. In collaboration with her OHSU colleagues, Nardos founded Footsteps to Healing, a global women’s health initiative providing surgical services to rural Ethiopian women with pelvic organ prolapse and incontinence. Under Nardos’ leadership, Footsteps joined WFF’s vision in sub-Saharan Africa to increase access and capacity for expert care by training local OB-GYNs. Currently, this partnership is supporting the first urogynecology fellowship training program in Ethiopia in collaboration with Mekelle University and Hamlin Fistula Hospital. The first two Ethiopian Fellows from this program will be graduating in November 2017.