Q&A with Volunteer Hannah MacIntyre
Since a young age, Hannah MacIntyre knew she wanted to help women have babies. Now, she is a Certified Nurse Midwife and clinical instructor in Midwifery Services at The George Washington University (GWU) Medical Faculty Associates in Washington D.C. Hannah recently volunteered with Project Medishare in the Central Plateau as part of our university partnership with GWU. This was her second trip to Haiti.
Read our Q&A with Hannah to learn more about her passion for women’s health, and her volunteer experience with us.
Why did you want to be a midwife? What steps did you take to achieve your goal?
I knew from a very young age that I would work in women’s health. I remember telling my mom as a young child: “Of course I will take care of women because I am a woman!” Seemed very simple to me as a kid.
I worked in a women’s health clinic as a teenager then I started my work in women’s health in advocacy after college. I worked for a nonprofit focused on women’s healthcare rights. From there, I decided I wanted to take a more clinical path. I started with doula training while I was in nursing school [at Georgetown University] so that I could increase my exposure to childbirth. I went to nursing school with the goal of becoming a midwife. I have never looked back! Being a woman helping other women is my purpose in life.
Why is it so meaningful for you to accompany a woman on her journey to motherhood?
Becoming a mother is inherently one of the most transformative experiences. I feel that being with women during this journey is a gift. My role is twofold. I am responsible for protecting their health and the health of their baby, of course. But I also feel I am responsible for shaping their experience. I want them to feel confident and capable because I think this makes them stronger mothers. I love to tell them how great they are already doing as a mother when they hear their baby’s strong heartbeat.
What observations have you made about maternal health care in Haiti?
Easily my first observation when visiting Haiti was that maternal health care is very limited which is to be expected. Women often travel very far to get care; even after traveling, there are limited resources to serve these women. Any strategy to improve access, especially in these rural regions, is a step in the right direction and worthwhile.
Did you notice any improvements or positive changes in this year’s trip compared to last year?
This year I was impressed by the number of community health workers and our team’s increased interaction with local health care providers. I think working together is key. Involving the community is so important – no one will understand the community’s needs more than the community itself. This involvement will hopefully also encourage individuals from within the community to pursue an education and train as health care providers so they can contribute back to their community.
How would you describe your overall volunteer experience in Haiti? How do you feel you made a difference?
I always have a wonderful time in Haiti. I leave feeling inspired and humbled. Medishare’s team is always very welcoming and takes great care of us. The communities we serve are always grateful for our care and very patient with us as we try to speak their language. This past year I saw one pregnant woman in her ninth month of pregnancy. I looked back at her prenatal records and the only other prenatal visit she had was with a colleague of mine from George Washington University Hospital who had visited earlier in the year. He had seen her in her fourth month of pregnancy. That woman likely delivered the week after I left. This means she had 2 visits during her pregnancy and both were by members of our GW team. So yes, I felt like I made a difference even if just for that woman.
What is the benefit of having medical students volunteer in a developing country like Haiti? How has your experience influenced the care you provide to women back home in the US?
My hope is that each year at least one of the medical students will develop a love of international health and will want to contribute further by continuing to provide healthcare outside of the United States – hopefully in Haiti! I can’t possibly explain all of the ways that my experience in Haiti has influenced me. I will say though that it has shaped more than just my clinical care. It has shaped my political views and perspective on international relations. Every year, it reaffirms my belief that we are all connected and all responsible for caring for one another – across the world.
To learn more about volunteering with Project Medishare in Haiti, please visit the Take Action section of our website.