The Surgeon at the Forefront of Women’s Health

a hero of healthcare

Dr. Charlotte Polle-Kaliti

On the heels of the Dakar Declaration — a commitment made by 29 African countries to accelerate safe surgical, obstetric, and anesthetic care in Africa over the next decade — we saw a growing focus on the future of sustainable, safe surgical care. On both the Global Mercy and the Africa Mercy, as well as across Africa, training continues to transform communities. Here are just two stories of surgeons who received training and now mentor others in their respective fields.

Growing up in a small village in Kenya, Dr. Charlotte Polle-Kaliti watched her neighbors, especially pregnant women, go without the healthcare they needed.

“I remember seeing a lot of suffering and disease,” she said. “Women die giving life. You lose your life to gain life. And then those who survive, those who are lucky, end up having fistula.”

Dr. Polle-Kaliti would later become the first person from her community to go into medicine. Today, she’s the sole female fistula surgeon in Kenya — one of only 11 in total.

She’s served with Mercy Ships three times, including this year in Dakar, where she performed 34 surgeries — 14 of which were fistula repairs.

“There are those who can give a coin, and there are those who can give their skills,” she said.

But to Dr. Polle-Kaliti, training is just as important as performing surgery.

“You don’t want to just come and help a few women and leave,” she said. “The fact that we can train local surgeons to pick up the mantle, we have a pool of experts who will continue with the work.”

As part of the MCB program, Dr. Polle-Kaliti recently had the opportunity to mentor Dr. Abdourahmane Diallo, a urologist from Senegal. He’s now bringing that knowledge back to Hospital General De Grand off in Dakar.

“That’s the beauty of this mentorship; it will have a trickle effect,” he said. “I have learned, so I will teach.”

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René Progin
René Progin
René is Communication and Media Manager for Mercy Ships Switzerland.

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