Pursues Dream Of Improving Women’s Health Care
May 7, 2003 --
While 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 promoter,
part of the U.Va. Nursing School’s Rural Health Outreach Project.
She also helped create and teach peer-training programs in basic
health care, domestic violence and HIV education. At U.Va., she
organized a women’s health festival on Grounds in February,
as well as the Women’s Center’s speaker series this
year on the broader topic of women in the international arena.
Neuhausen, an Echols scholar, will receive a bachelor of science
degree in her self-designed major, international women’s health.
And she’s gained something more from five semesters of having
various roles at the Women’s 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. “There’s
a high percentage of Spanish-speaking immigrants, many undocumented.
This segment of the population often doesn’t get appropriate
medical treatment. They’re invisible.”
semester in Ecuador was sponsored through the School of 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.
traditional culture there, when a baby is being born, whoever cuts
the umbilical cord is considered a member of the family, even if
not otherwise related. Neuhausen said the doctors don’t seem
to recognize this.
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 about an hour away.
still love science, but I’ve learned other ways of looking
at and experiencing the world,” she said. She’ll keep
that perspective with her when she goes to medical school. But first,
she will take a year off to travel, volunteer in other health programs
and eventually return to Latin America. Neuhausen has applied to
work in programs in Guatemala and in a different part of Ecuador.
She also plans to visit Clemente and her families in Libertador
have to go back.”
Lee Graves, (434) 924-6857