Interview with incoming FIGO President, Dr. Dorothy Shaw

September 7, 2006

XVIII FIGO World Congress of Gynecology and ObstetricsNovember 5-10, 2006 - Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

watch the video of this interview

Dr. Lee Clark: Good afternoon Dr. Shaw, I am Dr. Lee Clark from the University of the Philippines and I am doing this interview on behalf of China OBGYN.net. We know you have a very hectic schedule but we are very fortunate to have you come around. Just briefly, I'll do an introduction. This is Dr Dorothy Shaw, from the British Columbia Women's Hospital, Vancouver, Canada. She is a prolific author of several respected publications, and is a strong advocate of women’s and children's health. She is the incoming president of the International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics. Thank you very much for your kind indulgence for this short interview.

Doctor, we would just like to ask you about this very important position that you are going to have with the FIGO. What will be the platform of your term, if you can give us a little bit of a hint as regards to your advocacy and focus?

Dr. Dorothy Shaw: Thank you. That is a very interesting question, and it is not a short answer. I think that FIGO is, well at the moment 110 member societies, after this general assembly we hope there will be 113 member societies. Our mandate must be to ensure that our member societies are adequately supported to be involved in their own countries with policy and service that supports women's health and women's rights in that country. So that will be, if you like, one of the main mandates of my time as president.

In terms of the some of the areas that are of concern I think these are probably well known already. FIGO is currently very involved in terms of strategies in 12 countries to address maternal mortality in ways that are driven by our member countries, in partnership with the Ministries of Health and supported by FIGO, with grants from FIGO and with grants from other agencies, as well as mentorship from other societies within FIGO. Those will be a major focus of the presidency. They are very important and we need to evaluate them and ensure that they are on-track and producing the kind of results that we are all hoping for.

In addition, the fistula collaboration with UNFPA and others will continue and become increasingly more active over the next three years. We have already been involved in supporting fistula repair, I think there were 200 fistula repairs done earlier this year. We anticipate that there will be more opportunity to train physicians who can remain in the countries where they are needed, and in addition, to use the opportunity to teach not only the skills to repair fistula, which is not just the surgical skills it is a complex issue, but also to focus on the prevention.

The prevention of fistula is very comparable to the prevention of maternal mortality. Maternal mortality has been, and will continue to remain, a very significant focus. We will be looking at the various contributing components to maternal mortality, and asking which areas we can move on that will make a difference that other partners are able to work with us, to really address improving and saving women's lives as quickly as possible. Some of these solutions are not difficult to implement and we really have a very serious responsibility to the women of the world to stop them from dying, preventively.

Dr. Lee Clark: If I may ask another question doctor. One of the biggest problems, particularly in Asia, is the inaccessibility of safe abortion clinics. There are many issues surrounding the issue of abortion, in particular the legal, religious and cultural barriers that surround this very important issue in women's health. Can you also give us a little bit about FIGO's strategies as regards to this, in particular because this is an issue for which government support perhaps in these countries need to be actively pursued.

Dr. Dorothy Shaw: I think with that topic, as well as with other topics in FIGO, our responsibility is to present the facts, to present the evidence. The evidence is very clear on unsafe abortion, and on many other topics relating to maternal mortality and to other areas of gynecology and obstetrics where women's health is seriously jeopardized. If we look at the facts on unsafe abortion it is very clear that poor women are the ones who are most significantly impacted. Women who have access to resources, financial resources, because that is really what it is about, if you have access to financial resources, you do not die from unsafe abortion anywhere in the world, regardless of whether it is legal in that country. Really, that is clear evidence. We know what happens when there are restrictive laws in place in terms of abortion. It does not reduce the abortion rate, it merely results in women dying.

Dr. Lee Clark: Thank you very much doctor. We have a very tedious task to pursue in the next year or so, but there will be some exciting successes in the coming years because of your active advocacy. We hope that you succeed in every endeavor that you do and will be able to push through the cooperation amongst the different societies in particular countries involved in the professional societies in particular. And of course, gathering the efforts from different social organizations and groups around the countries of the world.

Good luck to your presidency in the International Federation. We hope to be able to catch up with you at some time.

Dr. Dorothy Shaw: I would like to thank all of you as our FIGO fellows for participating during this meeting. You are the future. We look forward to your contributions to improving the lives of women around the world. Thank you so much.

Dr. Lee Clark: Thank you very much.