Helping women worldwide
by Gladys Clemente
Kate Neuhausen bathes a newborn she delivered as a midwifes
apprentice last year in Ecuador.
By Anne Bromley
a third-year student, Kate Neuhausen helped a midwife in Ecuador
bring babies into the world.
was surprised when Gladys Clemente, to whom she was apprenticed,
said she could catch the babies. And she was amazed
that several women in the South American village where she stayed
for a month subsequently embraced her as kin, godmother to their
she returned to U.Va. for her final year, Neuhausen worked with
the local Spanish-speaking immigrant community as a health educator,
part of the Rural Health Outreach Program, a community organization
in Nelson County. She also helped create and teach peer-training
programs in basic health care, domestic violence and HIV education.
At U.Va., she organized a womens health festival on Grounds
in February, as well as the Womens Centers speaker
series this year on the broader topic of women in the international
Church of Our Lady of the Pillar of Santa Cruz is the largest
building in the Ecuadorean village of Libertador Bolivar,
where Neuhausen apprenticed to a local midwife. After a baptism
ceremony for about 20 babies, people celebrated their towns
anniversary with this colorful procession through the streets.
Neuhausen, an Echols Scholar, will receive a bachelor of arts
degree in her self-designed major, international womens
health. And shes gained something more from five semesters
of having various roles at the Womens Center: the
confidence to become whom I dreamed of becoming.
want to be a family practitioner in immigrant-refugee health.
Ecuador transformed how I look at the world, particularly the
U.S. and its
relations with Latin America, she said. Theres
a high percentage of Spanish-speaking immigrants, many undocumented.
This segment of the population often doesnt get appropriate
medical treatment. Theyre invisible.
semester in Ecuador was sponsored through the School for International
Training, which specializes in hands-on, experiential programs
in developing countries. She first completed an intensive language
study session in the capital city of Quito. From there, she traveled
to the small town of Libertador Bolivar on the coast, where she
became part of a strong net of loving relationships, woven of
the bonds between midwife and mothers, a bond that is being unwittingly
jeopardized by some modern-minded physicians.
beach near the Ecuadorean village of Libertador Bolivar serves
as a focal point for social life, drawing people around sunset
every evening to stroll along the shore, play soccer in the
sand or cool off in the water. Neuhausen relaxes with some
children from the village.
traditional culture there, when a baby is being born, whoever
cuts the umbilical cord is considered family, even if not otherwise
related. Neuhausen said the doctors dont seem to recognize
are also encouraging women to go to a hospital to give birth,
but Clemente is working hard to dispel their misconception of
midwives care as unclean. She uses latex gloves and sterilized
instruments; her practice is actually better equipped and cleaner
than some hospitals, Neuhausen said. Another consideration is
that the closest hospital to the town is an hour away.
still love science, but Ive learned other ways of looking
at and experiencing the world, she said.
keep that perspective with her when she goes to medical school,
but first will take a year off to gain more experience. She won
a U.Va. Center for Global Health Scholar Award to go to Limpopo,
South Africa, this summer. Then shell return to Latin America,
working in programs in Guatemala and in a different part of Ecuador.
also plans to visit Clemente and her families in Libertador Bolivar.
have to go back, she said.
by Andrew Shurtleff
Kate Neuhausen shows off a mural behind the U.Va. Womens
Center. It was designed and painted by first-year student
members of SERVE, a community service program, to recognize
the Womens Centers Young Women Leaders Program,
in which Neuhausen participated as a big sister during her
second year at U.Va.