The fight to save lives in Sub-Saharan Africa

News & Research Dateline: Africa

1000+ OBGYNs

The fight to save lives in Sub-Saharan Africa

By Lauren Crawford

Fall-Winter 2015
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With over 1 million newborn deaths and 300,000 maternal deaths reported in 2013, Sub-Saharan Africa has some of the highest birth-related mortality rates in the world. Many of these deaths are preventable, but limited access to comprehensive, high-quality training in obstetrics and gynecology prohibits women from receiving adequate care. An initiative from the University of Michigan is providing this much-needed training to eliminate preventable deaths altogether.

The 1000+ OBGYNs Project is a collaboration between the U-M Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, the Department of Learning Health Sciences and the Open.Michigan Initiative, an online learning resource created by U-M. Consisting of a network of American and African university-based OB-GYN departments, the project is poised to train more than 1,000 new OB-GYNs in the Sub-Saharan region over the next decade. 

Every country deserves robust, well-functioning obstetrics and gynecology departments that can train people and provide leadership. —Frank Anderson

“Every country deserves robust, well-functioning obstetrics and gynecology departments that can train people and provide leadership,” says Frank Anderson, M.D., associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology and director of the program. 

The project, which has received funding through the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Flora Family Foundation, the U-M African Institute and the World Bank, was created after a 2014 global meeting of obstetricians and gynecologists in Accra, Ghana. An a priori meeting establishing the collaborative process was also held in Rome in 2012. 

The African OB-GYN educational programs will be supported by a series of free “collections,” consisting of lectures, videos, textbooks and curricula. Care providers can access information on the most prevalent issues in the region, as well as general obstetrics and gynecologic care, such as family planning and cancer screening. 

Materials are available online at, and with the help of the Global Library of Women’s Medicine, they have also been distributed to hundreds of OB-GYNs in Sub-Saharan Africa on USB drives. 

The project relies heavily on Michigan’s model of international partnership that establishes not only the foundation for care, but also the capacity to create long-lasting infrastructure on the home front. 

Anderson is adamant that they will surpass their initial goal. “This could just as easily be the 10,000+ OBGYNs Project,” he says. “What we’re proposing can be replicated anywhere, and with any discipline.”

Photo courtesy of Frank Anderson