Profile: Dr. Rahel Nardos, Meet the Voice of University of Minnesota’s New Global Focus on Women’s Health
What do Minnesota’s Indigenous, immigrant, African American, and refugee communities have in common with women in low-resource countries around the world? They’re all chronically underserved by healthcare providers. So says Rahel Nardos, MD, the new director of global women’s health at the University of Minnesota’s Center for Global Health and Social Responsibility (CGHSR). And she aims to change that.
Nardos was born in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. She came to the U.S. for college on a scholarship, then attended Yale Medical School, where she met her husband, Damien Fair, who was pursuing his PhD in neuroscience. They moved to Addis Ababa after completing their studies, where Nardos cared for women with obstetric fistulas, a devastating condition in which a hole forms in the birth canal following childbirth.
“Having grown up there and seen the scarce situation, where the quality of medical care and education was compromised, that planted the seed for me to want to figure out ways we can create better health systems and build capacities in low-resource settings,” says Nardos.
In Ethiopia, Nardos worked with victims of some of the world’s worst health inequities—including women ostracized from their communities due to a medical condition that was itself a result of inadequate obstetric and gynecological care. “That got me interested in specializing in urogynecology,” says Nardos, who pursued fellowship training and a master’s degree in clinical research at the same time. “I’m very interested in improving care through research.”
She went on to work with Kaiser Permanente and Oregon Health & Science University in Portland, where she founded Footsteps to Healing, a program that supports surgical care for women with injuries after childbirth.
In 2020, amid a global pandemic and widespread civil unrest, Nardos and Fair were jointly recruited by the University of Minnesota and made a new home in the Twin Cities. While Fair leads the U’s Masonic Institute for the Developing Brain, Nardos is bringing her trusted global partnerships to the table to help CGHSR form stronger and more effective relationships with healthcare programs and providers around the world.