Over 100 women elected to House of Representatives for the first time and the impact that is expected to have on laws regarding women’s healthcare

Over 100 women elected to House of Representatives for the first time and the impact that is expected to have on laws regarding women’s healthcare

Story by Amelia Steinbach, T'21 The 2018 Midterm results from Election Day on November 6th resulted in historic numbers of women elected to the House of Representatives. For the first time in American history, more than 100 women will be serving as congressional representatives in January of 2019. The elections included several “firsts” – the youngest woman, the first Muslim women, the first Native American congresswomen, and the first black women elected from Connecticut and Massachusetts. Additionally, while the proportion of the Republican caucus that is white men increased, that same proportion in the Democratic caucus decreased to 38%, which is relatively close to the representation of that demographic group in the overall population. Tennessee and Arizona also elected female Senators for the first time in history. Several studies have shown that female legislators are more likely than their male counterparts to sponsor and vote for legislation relating to the needs of families, women, and children. They are generally more liberal about...
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Protections against FGM overruled by federal judge in US

Protections against FGM overruled by federal judge in US

Story by Amelia Steinbach and Suzanna Larkin, T'21 A recent federal case in Detroit resulted in America’s law regarding female genital mutilation being found unconstitutional. Two doctors were charged with violating a federal law after performing procedures on young girls from Illinois, Minnesota, and Michigan. The procedures all occurred in the Detroit area. The law prohibits “knowingly circumcising, excising, or infibulating any part of the labia majora, labia minora, or clitoris of another person who has not attained age 18.” The judge, Bernard Friedman, noted that while he was not in opposition to the protection against the abuse of girls, his interpretation of the Constitution led him to believe that “federalism concerns deprive Congress of the power to enact this statute,” essentially implying that the power to ban female genital mutilation and cutting must be left to state legislatures. Friedman’s decision dismisses almost all of the charges against the doctor. Michigan is one of 27 states which currently criminalizes FGM, but...
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30th Anniversary of World AIDS Day

30th Anniversary of World AIDS Day

Story by Amelia Steinbach, T'21 December 1st, 2018 marked the 30th anniversary of World AIDS Day, marked by celebrations and commemorations around the globe. World AIDS Day began in 1988. Now celebrated each year, the day marks a partnership between agencies of the United Nations, governmental leaders, and various societies. Each year includes a theme related to AIDS advocacy.  Since the event began in 1988, the stigma and lack of dialogue surrounding HIV/AIDS has decreased significantly. However, barriers still remain in the efforts to completely eliminate the stigma and discrimination. One of the most prominent barriers is the difficulty people face in getting tested for HIV/AIDS. For this reason, UNAIDS decided that the focus of 2018 World AIDS Day would be “know your status.” The organizers of this campaign believe that increased accessibility to HIV testing should be a top priority. In making these services accessible, the world will ensure that people know about a positive status prior to symptoms, in...
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Increase in Sexual Assault Services Announced in Nigeria

Increase in Sexual Assault Services Announced in Nigeria

Story by Alex Lichtl T'19 The Vice President of Nigeria, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, announced at a National Conference on Sexual and Gender Based Violence Response that Nigeria now has eleven sexual assault referral clinics in ten states. This is an increase from only three clinics in three states two years before, and reflects the government’s efforts to increase access to protective services for victims of sexual and gender based assault. These clinics provide forensic, medical, legal and psychological services to victims. The Vice President explained that over the past three and a half years the Rule of Law Advisory Team has partnered with different organizations to establish Gender Based Violence Response Teams across the States. Due to these efforts, more States are adopting laws to hold perpetrators accountable. Currently, stakeholders are working to establish Standard Operational Guidelines which can provide standardized steps to be used across the country. According to Vice President Osinbajo, these efforts are crucial because women bring value...
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Burden of Uterine Cancer Disproportionately Impacts Black Women in the US

Burden of Uterine Cancer Disproportionately Impacts Black Women in the US

Story by Alex Lichtl, T'19 Uterine cancer rates in the United States continue to rise, with the burden of this disease disproportionately impacting black women. Deaths from uterine cancer were twice as likely for black women compared to white women, even though the incidence was high among both racial groups. The higher mortality from uterine cancer seen in African American women may be due to factors such as genetics and unequal access to care, according to Dr. Michael Birrer at the University of Alabama. Birrer stated that more research is needed to address these factors. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that the rise in uterine cancer rates is partially due to the increase in obesity rates in the United States. Dr. Joseph Davis, an OB/GYN at Cayman Fertility Center, explained that apart from hormonal risk factors, such as higher-than-normal estrogen levels, social factors like diabetes and obesity have become more common due to the amount of processed foods...
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New Drug Shown to Reduce Risk of Breast Cancer Recurrence

New Drug Shown to Reduce Risk of Breast Cancer Recurrence

Story by Alex Lichtl, T'19 A recent trial has shown that a new drug called Kadcyla may cut the risk of breast cancer recurrence when combined with chemotherapy. The trial involved almost 1,500 women with early-stage HER2-positive breast cancer, which carries a protein that promotes cancer growth. All of these women had undergone a standard treatment that involved chemotherapy and the drug Herceptin, an antibody that targets HER2-positve cancer cells. This approach sometimes leaves residual cancer and puts women at a higher risk of recurrence. In the trial, Dr. Charles Geyer and his team researched the drug Kadcyla, which combines Herceptin with a chemotherapy drug called emstansine, to see if Kadcyla was more effective at preventing recurrence. It was found that 88% of women who received Kadcyla were cancer-free three years later as compared to 77% who received Herceptin. However, according to Geyer, there were more side effects with Kadcyla, such as a drop in blood platelets. Kadcyla is not yet...
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More restrictions regarding reproductive health care and limited information in Catholic-based hospitals

More restrictions regarding reproductive health care and limited information in Catholic-based hospitals

Story by Suzanna Larkin, T'21; Alex Lichtl, T'19 A recent report published in the journal Obstetrics and Gynecology examined the impact of Catholic religious guidelines on the reproductive health outcomes of patients. The report found that compared to other settings, Catholic health care facilities provide less information regarding reproductive health issues. Out of 27 different studies describing reproductive health services at Catholic health facilities, only one also reported patient outcomes. Most studies found that compared to non-Catholic hospitals, Catholic facilities were less likely to provide family planning services or did not provide them at all. Under the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services, the sanctity of marriage is stressed and intercourse is seen as a form of ‘life giving’ with life beginning at conception. As a result, reproductive health care is often only used to treat other medical conditions and in some cases, contraception is inhibited even in cases of rape. For instance, instead of IUDs and tubal ligation, patients may...
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Baby born in Brazil from a deceased donor’s uterus transplant

Baby born in Brazil from a deceased donor’s uterus transplant

Story by Suzanna Larkin, T '21 & Alex Lichtl, T'19 Doctors then waited seven months to ensure that the patient’s body wouldn’t reject the uterus before implanting the woman with her own egg. Ten days after implantation, pregnancy was confirmed and a baby girl was successfully born at 35 weeks and three days. The baby was delivered through a cesarean-hysterectomy operation, meaning that the transplanted uterus was removed after delivery. In a medical first, a child was born from a uterus transplanted from a deceased donor. A team of transplant doctors under Dr. Dani Ejzenberg at the University of Sao Paulo School of Medicine successfully transplanted the uterus from a 45-year-old mother of three who died from stroke to a woman in her thirties who had been born without a uterus. Although eleven births using transplanted wombs from live donors have been successful in the past, all other transplant attempts using deceased donors have failed, including one done in the U.S. Cleveland...
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Learning about Global Mental Health, and Teamwork, in Haiti

Blogpost by Alex Lichtl, T'19 During the summer of 2017 I traveled to Léogane, Haiti where I, and a team of student researchers, spent two months collecting data on women’s stressors in the community through a Duke SRT program. As a team, we had very little global health research experience, but after one week of orientation we were left on our own to recruit community leaders for interviews and organize focus groups for a project entitled "Mental and Reproductive Health Interventions for Haitian Women: Adapting strategies from community input on coping with stress." At first we were extremely lost, but with the help of our translator team and a lot of perseverance, we managed to reach our data collection goal. We were also fortunate because the women and men we worked with in the community were incredibly welcoming and open to sharing their life experiences regarding reproductive health. Overall, we asked women and men in the community about women’s stressors and coping...
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Duke alum who founded Myna Mahila Foundation (aims to improve equal access to menstrual hygiene products in India) chosen as one of seven charities to receive donations from Royal wedding

Duke alum who founded Myna Mahila Foundation (aims to improve equal access to menstrual hygiene products in India) chosen as one of seven charities to receive donations from Royal wedding

Post by Amelia Steinbach, T'21 Suhani Jalota, Duke University Class of 2016, was recently recognized on an international level for her work to increase menstrual hygiene access and equity in India. She recently founded the Myna Mahila Foundation in Mumbai, India, which was then selected by Prince Harry and Meghan Markle as one of seven charities to receive donations from their Royal Wedding in May 2018. The Myna Mahila Foundation was created as Suhani Jalota, originally from Mumbai herself, tried to address the severe problems affecting poor women in India who could not afford sanitary products. The foundation hires women to produce high-quality and low-cost products in order to ensure that women of lower SES can still participate in society during their menstrual cycles. She credits her experiences at Duke, particularly her participation in the Baldwin Scholars Program and the Melissa & Doug Entrepreneurship program. She is currently a Knight-Hennessey Scholar at Stanford University, but continues to serve as the CEO of...
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