Sixteen mothers die in childbirth in Uganda every day. “How can we make a difference?” is the question Ryan, then a medical student at Drexel University College of Medicine, posed to his father several years ago. The result of that question and his father’s, Ron Smith, Rotary membership was to bring together staff from two medical schools - Drexel University College of Medicine in Phila. and Makerere University School of Health Sciences in Kampala, Uganda.  In 2014, Drexel and Makerere began an exchange of ideas, technology, and staff to find ways to reduce mortality and morbidity during and after childbirth and improve access to essential medical services. Ron Smith, member of the Rotary Club of Blue Bell and recent recipient of the Drexel University Alumni Association’s Service to Community Award, established a Maternal and Child Health project. Through partnerships from other clubs, Drexel University College of Medicine, and interested parties, this program will establish a sustainable interchange of healthcare ideas and training of healthcare professionals. All of this, from one idea.

We expect to see an impact well beyond what is visible during the project. Immediately, and on into the future Ugandans will:
  • Learn effective practices to safeguard the wellbeing of mothers and infants as knowledge will become everyday practice in their lives
  • Ensure mothers will safely deliver healthier children
  • Apply precious medical resources to other needs
Children will begin life with better likelihood of meeting developmental milestones, eventually growing into stronger young adults with greater potential to contribute to society.
One component of the Rotary grant is the formation of Vocational Training Team (VTT) that is engaged in a travel exchange to accomplish the project goals.  In January 2014, Ron led a VTT to Uganda including medical teams (OB/GYN, midwives, etc.) and technology experts from Drexel.
The VTT Drexel members again departed on Friday, Feb 6, 2015 and were in Uganda until March 1.  Ron Smith joined the team on February 18th, along with Drexel University’s Owen Montgomery, MD, chair, Department of Obstetrics & Gynecology at the College of Medicine; and Michelle Rogers, PhD, associate professor, College of Computing & Informatics.  They conducted a Grand Rounds session between the two medical schools and have made significant progress against this year’s goals:
  • Upgraded mother and child healthcare skills at 4 health centers near Kampala
  • Provided "Helping Babies Breathe" and "Helping Mothers Survive" training in two health districts
  • Upgraded technology to ensure adequate connectivity between the medical schools
  • Developed a regular distance learning education seminar series
The Rotary network between USA and Uganda is strong and sustainable.  Year 3 of our project and the conclusion of our Maternal and Child Healthcare is already deep into the planning stages… With the partnership growing between Drexel University and Makerere University now official at the highest levels… our healthcare education efforts will be sustained for years to come with exchanges of faculty and students in medicine, nursing, public health, nursing, engineering, law, business and more. 
Now a VTT from Uganda Makerere and Kampala North will come to Drexel for three weeks starting May 2 to May 22 to focus on distance education to be supported by the computers donated this last year. 
Joanne Messerschmidt, President of Rotary of Blue Bell, said recently “Our club is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year and it is so relevant to us that Ron, a founding member, has stretched our club beyond its imagination at this time. This is a broad-reach, impactful project that demonstrates the commitment to this year’s theme and inspires us to Light Up Rotary.” Rotary International President Gary C.K. Huang challenges us to illuminate the world through our Rotary work: “It is better to light a single candle, than to sit and curse the darkness because there are so many problems in the world, so many people who need help, yet many people say, ‘There’s nothing I can do.’ So they sit there doing nothing. Meanwhile everything stays dark”. We have chosen to do something about this darkness; will you join us? Come learn more about the project and rotary of Blue Bell at