Born in Burkina Faso and educated in Cuba, Dr. Itengré Ouédraogo trained as a general surgeon before returning to West Africa. It was while working with a United Nations health initiative in rural Gouré, Niger, that he had his first direct contact with fistula patients. Being from sub-Saharan Africa, he was familiar with the kinds of challenges faced by women living in isolated areas. But in Gouré, “I started suffering along with the women and understand ing the complexity of their problems,” he wrote of his experience.
In 2008, he met the founder of Worldwide Fistula Fund, who at the time was working to open a fistula center in Danja in southern Niger. Dr. Itengré (known by his first name because, he says, it looks easier to pronounce) is now the chief medical officer at Danja Fistula Center. They see many complex cases, including patients who have endured at least one previous unsuccessful surgery, requiring a surgeon with extremely advanced skills.
“Every day, I get to see the hope in women’s faces when they come to us, and share their joy when the surgery is successful and they are finally dry.”
Through your donations, Dr. Itengré has received advanced training that has resulted in higher-caliber treatment for women who are suffering. Prior to his work at Danja, he was mentored by esteemed fistula surgeon Dr. Andrew Browning, and in 2014, he worked closely with Fistula Foundation Medical Director Dr. Steve Arrowsmith, who provided Dr. Itengré with one-on-one training in the operating room and ongoing consultation via video chat.
Now Dr. Itengré is a FIGO-certified expert surgeon and a trainer himself, further expanding the pool of highly skilled fistula surgeons who live and operate in African communities.
Blogging about his work at Danja last year, he remarked that one of the real challenges of fistula surgery is suffering along with patients when a repair fails, whether due to complications or reinjury. “But it is always worth it,” he wrote. “Every day, I get to see the hope in women’s faces when they come to us, and share their joy when the surgery is successful and they are finally dry.”
This story originally appeared in the Spring 2016 edition of our newsletter, Transformations.