The love for helping others led her on a journey to Africa, as part of a collaboration between U-M and St. Paul’s Hospital Millennium Medical College (SPHMMC) in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

By Meg Bauer (The University Record) |

While gazing out the third-floor window at the University of Michigan’s University Health Service (UHS), Dr. Susan Ernst recalls her life purpose: “I feel like advancing reproductive care for women and working to promote the dignity of all women, particularly those challenged with physical and cognitive disabilities, is my calling.”

For almost 15 years Ernst has been chief of gynecology at UHS and director of the Gynecology Clinic for Women with Disabilities at VonVoigtlander Women’s Hospital. When reflecting upon the most rewarding aspect of her career, Ernst highlights the professional satisfaction and the pure joy associated with making even a small difference in the lives of her patients.

Because her clinic includes the challenging work of caring for patients with cognitive and physical impairment, as well as the victims of sexual assault, she said she believes it is important to calm their fears, make them feel safe, and to treat them with dignity and respect.

This love for helping others led her on a journey to Africa, as part of a collaboration between U-M and St. Paul’s Hospital Millennium Medical College (SPHMMC) in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

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In Ethiopia, children and women with disabilities have enormous difficulty accessing health care, due to social stigma, poverty and lack of experienced medical professionals. However, Ernst is encouraged that Ethiopian physicians are passionate about change, prompting her team to discuss ways in which they could collaborate to improve care for these patients at SPHMMC.

Her experience in Africa inspired Ernst to take further action. She is collaborating with SPHMMC and the Ethiopian Center for Disability and Development to create a local clinic designed to both provide better health care for adolescents and women with disabilities, and to teach medical students and residents at St. Paul’s Hospital about the unique needs of this population of women.

Continue reading this story on The University Record
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