Two doctors from Greenslopes Private Hospital in Brisbane are dedicating their spare time to helping women in Uganda.
Professor Judith Goh and Professor Hannah Krause have recently returned from their latest trip abroad, volunteering their time to help Ugandan women with gynaecological issues.
During the three-week trip, the urogynaecologists performed 121 operations on women who would otherwise be unable to afford healthcare.
Prof Goh said they had been travelling to Africa and Asia since 1995 to help women.
“It’s wonderful to be able to give back and to help women have access to these services,” she said.
“Women’s health is often neglected in these parts of the world, even things like prolapse, which are common here too, are still not really understood and the women who suffer from these conditions are ostracised.
“There’s no privacy there, they don’t have bathrooms to wash themselves and the social isolation and stigma can be debilitating for them.”
As well as performing the surgeries for free, the two experienced surgeons also fundraise to cover the patients’ travel expenses and food – but pay for their travel costs out of their own pockets.
Greenslopes Private Hospital donates equipment to the project to allow donated funds to be spent on patient care.
“Greenslopes have been really supportive and we’re so grateful for that,” Prof Goh said.
“This kind of work – it grounds you a lot, there’s a lot we take for granted here and I think sometimes we don’t appreciate what we have. Even coming home and being able to have a warm shower and turn on the light at the light switch.
“There’s no air-conditioning in the theatres over there, so you’re operating in hot, difficult conditions sometimes.”
During their work, both Prof Goh and Prof Krause have become role models for women and young girls.
“Women are often seen as secondary citizens there, they can’t have the operation without a male family member’s consent,” Prof Goh said.
“But they’re seeing us, seeing educated women, seeing women doctors and we’re training the male doctors there, which is something very different."
She said education for girls was vital to get them out of poverty.
“Even a primary school-level education helps to lower maternal mortality rates, and if girls can earn an income, they’re in a much better position with their families," Prof Goh added.
“Someone in the Congo said, ‘See these women – they’re here helping you, and they’re women, and they’re doctors, keep your girls in school’.
“It was really touching, and that side of things was not something we expected to happen.”
Prof Goh and Prof Krause were planning another trip to Uganda in mid-December 2022, but that is some doubt.
“Right now, in Uganda there’s an Ebola outbreak, so they’re discouraging any movement around the country,” Prof Goh said.
“Before we go, there’s usually a radio announcement that we’re coming – because a lot of the women are illiterate – or the nurses go out to the remote villages to explain to the elders what we do.
“So, before we make that announcement this time, we’re hoping the Ebola situation calms down a bit.
“Next year, we have three or four trips planned already. It’s time away from our families and our practices, but this work is a priority for us, so we make the time for it.”
In 2011, Prof. Goh and Prof Krause formalised their volunteer work through the charity Health and Development Aid Abroad (HADA), which accepts tax-deductible donations.
Their project, Medical Training in Africa & Asia, now features a large team of volunteer doctors who have helped thousands of women around the world and trained dozens of local health practitioners in the management of women with pelvic floor conditions.