Dr. Grace Chen Talk on Tues., Sept. 12

Join Dr. Grace Chen, an associate professor in the department of gynecology and obstetrics at the John Hopkins School of Medicine at the Jesup Memorial Library on Tuesday, Sept. 12 at 7 p.m. She will be speaking about a condition that affects more than 2 million women and girls in rural areas in sub-Saharan Africa, Asia, the Arab region, and Latin America and the Caribbean. Women who are affected often are ostracized by their families and shunned by their communities.

This condition is called obstetric fistula and most often occurs when a woman delivers without a skilled birth attendant and do not have access to emergency medical care. These conditions are more common in remote, impoverished areas and currently somewhere from 50,000 to 100,000 new cases of obstetric fistula develop annually according to the United National Population Fund. An obstetric fistula is an abnormal hole between the vagina and bladder and/or vagina and rectum that is caused by prolonged obstructed labor. Obstructed labor occurs when the baby’s head gets stuck within the mother’s pelvis during the birthing process. Over time the pressure of the baby’s head within the mother’s pelvis can restrict the blood flow to this area and compress the soft tissue causing the tissue to die and holes or fistulas to develop. The baby often dies and the mother is left with constant leakage of urine and/or stool from the vagina. Because of the fistula, and the fact women can often no longer work and their reproductive potential is lost, women are shunned. And while reconstructive surgery exists, more women and girls will die before ever being treated. In 2016, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called upon the world to end fistula within a generation, putting it on the same level as other major global initiatives, including ending HIV, ending female genital mutilation and eradicating polio.

Dr. Grace Chen is a graduate of Bates College. She provides comprehensive care for the evaluation and medical, behavioral and surgical treatment of women with pelvic floor disorders, including pelvic fistula, urinary and fecal incontinence, and pelvic organ prolapse. She is well-versed in traditional surgical and non-surgical managements as well as innovative minimally invasive techniques such as laparoscopic and robotic surgery. In addition to clinical and surgical responsibilities, Dr. Chen also incorporates educating students, residents and fellows into her practice. She has received numerous teaching awards and serves as a mentor for students, residents and female pelvic medicine and reconstructive surgery fellows. She also developed and now leads the Johns Hopkins Global Health Leadership Program which is an interprofessional global health learning experience for medical, nursing, and public health students. Dr. Chen is also active in scientific research, specifically in obstetric fistula and global health, and in surgical skills assessment and surgical education. She received training specifically in the care of obstetric fistula patients and fistula surgery in Ethiopia and has worked with local health ministries and international agencies such as the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) on clinical and research initiatives aimed at caring for fistula patients and patients with other pelvic floor disorders in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. She is currently involved in clinical, research and educational programs in the United States, India and Rwanda. She is well published in peer reviewed medical journals and has also contributed to several book chapters. This has also led to presentations at national and international meetings and leadership roles in national and international organizations including the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology, the American Urogynecologic Society, the International Urogynecological Association, the Association of Professors of Gynecology and Obstetrics and the Society of Gynecologic Surgeons.

The YWCA Mount Desert Island is a co-sponsor of this event. For more information on the talk contact the Jesup at 207-288-4245 or kchagnon@jesuplibrary.org.