What was the defining moment that you led to this innovation?
38. What was the defining moment that you led to this innovation? (300 words or less)
When I was in Nigeria, I was helping a medical team conduct an emergency cesarean section Nigerian state hospital. All the lights in the operating room went out, and the doctors needed to finish the surgery by the beam of our flashlight. I realized that all my years of clinical experience were useless in a situation where there was no light to perform a delivery or surgery, and no phone system to call a skilled doctor. During the next week, I saw time and time again how a lack of basic infrastructure impaired the delivery of safe and timely care. I watched women literally bleeding to death in a state hospital that had no blood bank and no way to reach a surgeon. I saw women with uterine rupture (from days of labor at home) turned away from the hospital because there was no light to perform emergency surgery. I watched newborn babies die when lack of lighting and suction (no electricity) made effective resuscitation impossible.
I knew that these tragic scenes did not have to happen. Skilled workers were available or on-call to provide emergency care. The thing preventing the delivery of skilled emergency care was the lack of lighting, the lack of a reliable mobile communication system, and the lack of electricity for blood banks and essential equipment.
This realization affected me deeply, and left me with a determination to find a sustainable solution to the problem of unreliable electricity in maternity care facilities.
Tell us about the social innovator behind this idea.
Laura Stachel M.D., M.P.H., the founder of WE CARE Solar, as is a board-certified obstetrician-gynecologist with fourteen years of clinical experience, holding an MD from University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) and an MPH in Maternal and Child Health from University of California, Berkeley (UCB). As a DrPH candidate a The School of Public Health (UCB), her dissertation centers on emergency obstetric care in Nigeria. Laura is the Associate Director of Emergency Obstetric Research for the Bixby Center for Population Health and Sustainability. Laura is a consultant for the Population Reproductive Health Partnership, and is one of the principal investigators for a collaborative Population Council study aiming to improving the standard of maternity care in Nigerian state hospitals. Laura serves on the Editorial Board for the Berkeley Wellness Letter and is a lecturer at the UCB School of Public Health.
In 2007, Laura was invited to lead an investigation of emergency obstetric care in Northern Nigeria. Her research alerted her to the challenges facing state hospitals: inadequate staffing, scarce supplies, and deficient hospital infrastructure, including sporadic electricity. She found that the most critical factors contributing to life-threatening delays in obstetric care were (1) a lack of reliable lighting, (2) the failure to locate doctors in a timely manner, and (3) the inability to utilize critical medical devices that rely on electricity.
Determined to improve hospital conditions. Laura returned to the United States and assembled an interdisciplinary team to improve lighting, electricity, and mobile communication in the state hospital. Laura’s partner, solar technology trainer Hal Aronson, PhD, designed a portable solar electric system to allow Laura to demonstrate high efficiency LED lighting and walkie-talkies to health care workers in anticipation of a much larger, permanent installation. Nigerian health providers used the suitcase-size system over the next six months and reported improved obstetric outcomes. Soon health care workers from many hospitals and clinics in Northern Nigeria were asking for their own sun-powered electricity and lighting kit. The ‘solar suitcase’ was born.
How did you first hear about Changemakers?
Personal contact at Changemakers
If through another, please provide the name of the organization or company