Bringing the basic human right of adequate women’s health care and education to the remotest Himalayan communities of India.
Following examinations of many of the local Ladakhi women, Dr. Chua Yang rapidly discovered that the leading cause of premature death in Ladakhi women is cervical cancer, which is preventable in developed countries by HPV vaccinations and PAP smear screening for pre-cancerous development.
Pre-cancerous lesions are completely treatable and curable. Dr. Chua Yang then committed to plans to return in 2010 and initiated the idea of working on a wide scale education program and a simple examination strategy that could hopefully address this urgent situation.
Following the success of the mission of 2009, in 2010 another, even more ambitious and diverse Singapore Medical Reach-out team once again returned to the Nubra Valley In a ground-breaking effort, gynecologists Dr. Chua Yang and Dr. Quek Swee Chong initiated public teaching efforts and also examined and treated over 300 women of all ages and cultural backgrounds. Thirty patients with precancerous lesions were diagnosed and were surgically treated during the camp.
On the final day of the treatments, the doctors were receiving young female patients who were coming to the camp purely for screening – surely a monumental breakthrough given the conservative cultural background of the region.
Based on this optimistic progress, The Himalayan Women’s Heath Project was initiated to continue this effort of education, examination and treatment to help avoid unnecessary deaths from cervical cancer and other treatable conditions amongst the women of Ladakh. Efforts to ameliorate the high rate of prenatal mortality among the child bearing women of Ladakh is another major objective of the project.
Another area of women’s health care that has come to light during the 2010 camp is the tragically high prenatal mortality rates in rural Ladakh. Efforts will be made towards improvement in this aspect of healthcare in the upcoming 2011 camp.
Working in close collaboration with a dedicated local physician, Dr Nordan Otzer, Dr Yang and other local and international collaborators in the Himalayan Women’s Health Project have immediately set out to bring fundamental education and health care to the women of Ladakh.
The Himalayan Women’s Heath Project is securing portable AV projection equipment for Dr Nordan to enhance his capability to bring basic health care education to the woman of rural Ladakh.
Another major enhancement and inspiration for the project is the recent posting of a young, dynamic and dedicated gynecologist to the Nubra Valley. Dr Padma Chosden was an outstanding student at Lamdon School in Leh. Ten year ago she graduated with full honors and was awarded a scholarship to continue her education outside of Ladakh.
After a decade of arduous study, Dr. Padma has achieved her medical degree and has now returned to her local community to serve in the remotest region of Nubra Valley. She will be bringing fundamental health care for the female population of this remote area for the first time in it’s long history.
Dr Padma’s presence is an enormious asset. She brings not only her intelligence and dedicated work ethic, but also a sincere motivation to utilize her hard earned skills for the welfare of other women in Ladakh who are much less fortunate than her. Being female and able to speak the local dialect will be of enormious benefit to help overcome the cultural resistance to regular gynecological examinations and treatment.
Working in conjunction with Dr Nordan, Dr Padma will be participating in a region-wide educational and examination effort during the long and arduous winter between December > April. The Himalayan Women’s Health Project is providing Dr Padma all the basic equipment and supplies necessary to allow her to be functional in her extremely remote location.
In addition, a laptop computer has been generously donated to the project by Mr Boon Tan of Singapore. This will immeasurably enhance Dr Padma and Dr Nordan’s ability to show educational presentations and compile the invaluable patient records which will lay the groundwork for long term intervention and health care improvements for the entire female population of Ladakh.
Goals for the future
Tentatively, Dr. Yang will be returning to Ladakh in September 2011 with another dedicated team of women’s health care specialists to build upon the foundation she and her colleagues have archived in the previous three years of intervention:
Objectives of the 2011 Expedition:
1. Provide necessary treatment of any women who Dr Nordan and Dr Padma diagnosed as ill or injured in the previous winter months. Any necessary surgery or more complex treatments than are possible to provide in the Nubra Valley will be made available to any woman needing such treatment.
2. The further improvement of simple, but effective wide spread screening and treatment of women for pre-cancerous conditions.
3. Improvement to the patient records and data base for the entire region so that wide spread interventions can be mobilized and individual patients can be more efficiently examined and treated for years to come.
4. Providing the local team of physicians with whatever medical, educational and treatment facilities they require to carry on the work after the international team departs
5. To provide educational training and leadership development relating to women’s healthcare issues to local health care providers and women’s community groups in these areas.