Hamilton missionary doctor receives Order of Canada
“This award is a moment when we can stop and think about these voiceless mothers and recognize their lives are worth saving.”
HAMILTON, ON—Dr. Jean Chamberlain Froese, founder of Save the Mothers (STM), is among the newest recipients of the Order of Canada. Her work in developing countries has not only saved thousands of lives, but also started a pro-motherhood movement in East Africa comprising the political, medical, media and educational fields.
“It was a total surprise when I found out. I was in the labour and delivery area of a hospital in Hamilton,” says Chamberlain Froese. Along with her husband and three children, she spends eight months a year as a medical missionary in Uganda and four months working in Canada at the hospital and serving as the director of the International Women’s Health Program at McMaster University. “I was surrounded by mothers delivering babies, so it was an appropriate place,” she says.
Chamberlain Froese started her medical career in pediatrics, but switched to obstetrics when she realized she loved delivering babies. After several short-term medical trips to developing countries, Froese realized what they needed was not more western doctors, but for indigenous leaders to be trained and take a stand.
“I could stand there and catch a thousand babies, but in Uganda, 1.2 million babies are born every year. That’s not a long-term solution,” she explains. “We need to train local people and make valuing mothers a focus. So, in 2005 I moved to Uganda and started a program called Save the Mothers.”
The organization offers a master’s degree in Public Health Leadership on the campus of Uganda Christian University. Daniel Scott, managing director of STM, says the idea is to train influential members of society on issues related to maternal mortality and help them bring about change in their spheres of influence.
“Journalists take the program and write about the issues, business work in their areas, teachers run programs with their children to advocate for safe motherhood,” explains Scott. “Five members of the Ugandan parliament have taken the program and are taking steps to include maternal health in the budget. It’s a unique program trying to bring about societal change in the long term.”
STM also recently piloted a “women-friendly hospital initiative,” providing mobile technology to track pregnancy statistics and improve communication in eight hospitals. Their graduates are also working as advisers in the hospitals.
He says they are often implementing basic common-sense solutions, such as setting up a welcome table so women can get assessed and triaged, or putting curtains up in delivery rooms that hold “40 women with their legs up for all their family members to see.”
“This appointment [to the Order of Canada] brings new light to the work,” Chamberlain Froese says. “This stuff costs money. I hope people take the time to learn about the program and support it. In Canada we lose 30 mothers in a bad year. In Uganda, they lose 6,000. This award is a moment when we can stop and think about these voiceless mothers and recognize their lives are worth saving.”
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