UIC doctor first recipient of new global health scholar award

experts guide; obstetrics & gynecology

Gelila Goba — Photo: Jenny Fontaine

Gelila Goba is the recipient of the inaugural Martin-Peterson Global Health Scholar Award from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG).

The award recognizes outstanding OB/GYNs from low- or middle-income countries working at hospitals and universities in the United States. Goba, assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the UIC College of Medicine, was recognized specifically for her work improving women’s health care in the U.S. and Ethiopia, where she was born.

In 2012, Goba founded the Mela Project, a collaboration between UIC and Mekelle University in northern Ethiopia that aims to improve medical education and training in the African country, where only 28 percent of births occur under the care of a trained professional and women routinely lack access to basic primary health care essentials. By training new doctors, supporting mentorship in research and promoting faculty development, the Mela Project hopes to establish Mekelle University as an OB/GYN center of excellence and improve the health of women in Africa.

In 2017, the program graduated five faculty members – its first graduating class – almost tripling the university’s OB/GYN faculty. The Mela Projects is also working to improve access to vaccines, cancer screening and fertility counseling and to engage community members and health officials in building health care infrastructure. Under Goba’s leadership, the project is expanding to South Sudan, Uganda and Somaliland.

Goba received her medical degree from Jimma University in Jimma, Ethiopia. She completed her residency at Northwestern University and fellowship at the University of Washington, where she also earned a master’s degree in public health. In addition to her faculty appointment in the department of obstetrics and gynecology, Goba is director of the Global Women’s Health Fellowship program and a core faculty member of the Global Medicine program at UIC.

The Martin-Peterson award was created in late 2016 as a gift from Dr. James Martin Jr., a former ACOG president, in honor of Dr. Herbert Peterson’s lifelong dedication to improving women’s health care across the globe and his role initiating the ACOG Global Operations Advisory Group.

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