Faculty members Jenni Gabelsberg DPT, WCS, MSc, MTC and Jennafer Vande Vegte, PT, BCB-PMD, PRPC along with senior Teaching Assistant Quozette Valera PT, DPT will travel to Africa to teach pelvic health in Nairobi City, Kenya through a partnership between Herman & Wallace and The Jackson Foundation. These instructors will be teaching two modules of comprehensive pelvic health training with the goal of creating a self-sustaining, continuous education program taught and offered locally. In addition to training a cohort of physiotherapists in assessing and treating the pelvic floor, these American faculty members will be mentoring local Kenyan therapists to teach these courses in an ongoing manner. We at the Institute are proud and thrilled to be a part of spreading this knowledge and skillset in this currently-underserved region.
The courses offered will comprise H&W's Pelvic Floor Series, with the addition of content relevant to Kenya, including obstetric fistula and female genital mutilation. According to the Worldwide Fistula Fund, there are ~ 2 million women and girls suffering from fistulas. Estimates range from 30 to 100 thousand new cases developing each year; 3-5 cases/1000 pregnancies in low-income countries. A woman may suffer for 1-9 years before seeking treatment. For women who develop fistula in their first pregnancy, 70% end up with no living children.
Have you ever had a dream hidden so deep in your heart you never even spoke it aloud?
The dream for me, to someday teach internationally will come to fruition in February 2022. Jenni Gabelsberg DPT, WCS, MSc, MTC; Quozette Valera PT, DPT; and I will travel to Africa to teach pelvic health in Nairobi City, Kenya through a partnership between Herman & Wallace and The Jackson Foundation.
Richard Jackson, a prominent clinician, educator, and businessman himself (The Jackson Clinics, Richard Jackson Seminars, and The Jackson Foundation), had his own dream to build the quality of physical therapy in Africa by educating and empowering clinicians through an evidence-based curriculum developed by Richard and taught by his staff. Richard served two years in the Peace Corps in Kenya in the late 70s. He taught PT at Kenya Medical Training College. In 2010 a former colleague of his moved from the US back to Ethiopia to address and equip PT education and educators in the country. This led to a partnership where Richard helped develop the first DPT program in Africa. “We were in Ethiopia for seven years. We started a residency program that turned into a doctoral program in physical therapy. In December 2017, we graduated 17 DPTs and now we are out. It is sustainable. It’s up to them to carry on and they have the curriculum and the skills,” said Richard in this article.
In 2012 the program Richard stated reproduced and blossomed in Nairobi, Kenya. Let’s talk for a second about what the field of PT is like in Kenya. In a country of almost 54 million people, there are about 2,000 PTs. Thirty-five percent (700) are women, as reported by the Kenya Society of Physiotherapists. The degree is a diploma that takes 3 years to earn, and there are 9 programs available.
There is a women’s health section along with other specialty sections. Medical care has both private and public facilities which can have a wide variation in amenities. After offering specialty training in orthopedics and neurology, Richard recognized the need to expand training to pelvic health. Thus, a partnership between Herman & Wallace, The Pelvic Health and Rehab Center, and The Jackson Foundation was born. In 2019 three cohorts of teachers: Nancy Cullinane PT, MHS, WCS, Kathy Golic PT, and Terri Lannigan PT, DPT, OCS taught module one; Kathy Golic, Casie Danenhauer, and Sherine Aubert fielded a second module; and then educated and equipped the first class of 35 pelvic health graduates. The foundation of the Kenyan Pelvic Health Program thus laid; the future looked bright!
Then…covid brought everything to a screaming halt.
Almost three years later, the program will eagerly resume in Nairobi City.
One can imagine in a country with so few therapists, so few female therapists, and even fewer (think under 50!) pelvic health therapists, the desperate need for pelvic health training and treatment is difficult to fathom. Add to that the strain of a rather patriarchal society where women's health may not be readily accepted or addressed.
In her blog about her experience in Kenya, Sherine Aubert reflects, “To me, this two-week course was way beyond teaching pelvic floor physical therapy - it was truly empowering women to speak up for themselves and each other in the medical community. It provided a voice for anyone suffering from pelvic floor issues to seek help.”
As for Jenni, Quozette, and I, we are beyond humbled and excited to be a part of this experience. Per Richard, "Everyone has come back from these experiences profoundly changed."
If you would like to support this program, we are open to your ideas, expertise, and connections. You can also make a tax-deductible donation to The Jackson Foundation here.
For further information:
Read about Richard Jackson.
Read about the 2019 pelvic health training in Kenya:
Read more about PT in Kenya: