Where there’s a womb, there’s a way.
I have this tendency to make provocative choices. Really, I don’t mean to inflame. My TEDMED was called “Innovate Where it Hurts” because that’s what I’m passionate about. The stronger the pain, the more my belly is on fire.
Today marks the culmination of an intense virtual global hackathon to seek out innovative solutions for #1 cause of maternal mortality. 25 million women worldwide attempt this dangerous procedure. 7 million of them are hospitalized. 31,000 die. 97% are from resource limited countries.
Multi-disciplinary teams of physicians and innovators got together to conceive of next generation abortion techniques targeted specifically at low income countries, where women are dying. I was requested to join as a mentor to help teams with their submissions. The hackathon was held under the auspices of Grand Challenges Canada (OPTions Initiative). It was on the back roads of Sub-Saharan Africa that I encountered first-hand the implications of lack of access to care, as a social-entrepreneur with a medical device for HIV prevention. I completely took for granted access to medical care in my comfortable and privileged surroundings.
My observations as a mentor can be summed up in three words:
Diversity. Diversity. Diversity.
Diversity #1: From insights based on remote rural settings to cutting edge science offered by the most prestigious universities. Submissions came from Bangladesh to California, and everything in the middle (don’t check my geography ;-) to include Israel, Nepal, Tanzania, Ghana, Mongolia, Canada, Malaysia, India, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Hong Kong, Congo, Rwanda, Malawi.
Diversity #2: From ancient tribal herbal medicine that has been used for centuries for this purpose but was never accepted for mainstream use, all the way to novel cutting edge medical devices that improve upon existing techniques and render them accessible for developing countries.
Diversity #3: Men care too. They were mentors, they were participants. They were present. What united us was our differences. That makes perfect sense, right?
Saving lives has no borders and is completely color blind. We put our collective intellectual capacity into finding real solutions for real people.
In all honesty, I don’t understand why this topic is provocative. For me, it’s about saving lives.
No politics. No religion too. Imagine.