“Saving Mothers” – with Dr. Tara Shirazian

In the second episode of the mini series, Dr. Tara Shirazian joins Dr. Fox to talk about “Saving Mothers,” a nonprofit which she founded to improve maternal health worldwide. In this episode, Dr. Shirazian explains her background and education and why she is passionate about global health. She discusses her experience as an OBGYN and why she “always cared a lot about the access [to healthcare] of the underserved communities.”

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Dr. Tara Shirazian joins Dr. Fox to discuss her foundation, Saving Mothers. Dr. Shirazian is an OBGYN and first-generation American who grew up on Long Island. She first became interested in expanding access to healthcare in underserved communities while in medical school at Brown University, where she developed a service-learning program to help students train and serve as interpreters for patients who didn’t speak English. She then went on visit Honduras as a resident through Medical Students Making an Impact, and later to found Saving Mothers as the Director of Global Health at Mount Sinai Hospital.   

Dr. Shirazian explains that maternal mortality is recognized by UNICEF as “the greatest health divide in the world.” Many countries have a severe lack of OG/GYNs or other trained medical staff, and Dr. Shirazian explains that women often die at home giving birth due to causes that could have been prevented, but they lack access to health care.  

Dr. Shirazian also explains that there is a global misconception that pregnancy and birth are low risks, but her training in obstetrics informs her that this is not true. Dr. Fox further explains that maternal mortality rates in the U.S. are generally measured as 9-12 deaths for every 100,000 births, but in other countries, it can be closer to 9-12 deaths for every 100 or 1,000 births. He also comments that while in the U.S. there is a frequent debate that the cesarean rate is to high, “[it is] a luxury that we’re arguing about doing too many cesareans.”  

Dr. Shirazian shares that in many places she’s visited through Saving Mothers, there are no tools, little to no staff, and poor hygiene. She stresses the importance of reducing maternal mortality because when a mother dies in childbirth, it has a huge effect on her household, her newborn, and her family, including other children. She says the concern is “not just her death, we’re talking about the community she lives in.” However, she finds that the importance of these issues is often ignored and that many fail to see maternal mortality as a priority or a human rights issue.  

Dr. Shirazian founded Saving Mothers in 2009 with the goal of reducing maternal mortality rates through low-cost, high-impact solutions. The organization now reaches mothers in Kenya, Guatemala, the Dominican Republic, and New York City.  

Dr. Shirazian explains that many hospitals or birth attendants around the globe require women to acquire their own supplies for their deliveries, so Saving Mothers now supplies birth kits for women that includes a set of instructions to help their birth attendant. She says “we’ve sent out tens of thousands of these kits at this point.” 

She also explains that the organization has established their School of PowHer in Guatemala, which teaches birth attendants about high-risk pregnancies and deliveries, and has now evolved into previous attendees teaching new ones.  

In New York City, Saving Mothers has also developed a program called mPOWHER, which is a toolkit of health information for Black mothers with information regarding pregnancy and health concerns in Harlem and the Bronx.  

Dr. Shirazian explains that “the vision is always bigger,” and that she looks forward to doing more thanks to help from new volunteers and support through donations. She says that as little as $15 can help Saving Mothers provide a birth kit, and now, $40 can provide a Covid-19 kit. She also urges listeners to visit mommymatters.com, which supports Saving Mothers through sales of postpartum underwear and pregnancy pillows. Finally, she says that “when you get involved, you get so much more than you give. I highly encourage everyone to get involved in whatever makes them feel passionate.”  

Dr. Taraneh Shirazian is a gynecologic surgeon and Assistant Professor at NYU Langone Medical Center. She completed an accelerated medical school program at Brown University before completing residency at Mount Sinai Medical Center.