A New Hope is Born

Obstetric fistula is a devastating childbirth injury most common in underdeveloped countries where women give birth without medical assistance. Caused by prolonged or obstructed labor, fistula plagues the mother with excruciating pain and incontinence, often resulting in shame and social isolation. Treatment for women suffering from fistula is far from a given. For every one who receives treatment, 50 go without.

While studying in the accelerated BSN program at Carolina, Ingrid Marzuola received funding through the Cronenwett Global Health Scholars endowment — a fund honoring Dean Emerita Linda Cronenwett and supporting student academic and clinical experiences abroad — to work to change this unfortunate reality. She traveled to Mali to work with IntraHealth International’s third End Shame: Restore Dignity campaign to repair the effects of fistula and help women regain their lives.

As Marzuola got to know the women affected by fistula personally, she gained greater understanding of their everyday struggles, both physical and emotional. She saw firsthand how the injury affected them and that more than surgery would be needed to care for their wounds. She enthusiastically joined an interdisciplinary team in screening patients for depression and other mental health conditions to arrive at the best holistic treatment approaches.

“[The] multidisciplinary and multilayered approach from the health-care team was my first glimpse of solidarity during my time with the fistula campaign, but it would not be my last,” she said. With donor support, we aim to ensure that Marzuola’s formative experience won’t be the last for fellow UNC School of Nursing students, either.

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