Fighting Maternal Mortality

Around 800 women in the world die from pregnancy or childbirth-related complications every day. In Mongolia, one in five maternal deaths occurs as a result of preeclampsia/eclampsia, a condition combining high blood pressure with protein in the urine, or eclampsia, the onset of convulsions. Women who have survived this condition during pregnancy have twice the risk of developing cardiovascular disease later in life. Through her research, Enkhmaa Davaasambuu is working hard to reduce the unacceptably high mortality rate in mother and child.

DiscovHER - Please explain how your research can potentially improve the quality of women’s health.

Enkhmaa Davaasambuu - The overall purpose of the project I am working on is to study why some women have a greater risk of having complications during pregnancy compared to others. Preeclampsia, characterized by new onset hypertension and proteinuria, has a 5% occurance rate in the US and up to 15% in Mongolia. Endothelial dysfunction is a risk factor for both hypertension and preeclampsia. The aim of the study is to assess vascular function in postpartum women with a history of preeclampsia, gestational hypertension or normotensive pregnancy in Mongolia. A better understanding of the timing and nature of cardiovascular disease risk as it emerges after hypertensive pregnancy will permit novel screening and prevention protocols tailored to a young woman’s personal cardiovascular disease risk profile.


D/H - What does this fellowship mean to you?

ED - This fellowship program enables me to gain more knowledge and practice in a center that is dedicated to providing screening, diagnostic and treatment options for women with, or at risk of heart disease, and to discover novel preventive and therapeutic strategies for women. The center where I am going to do training has a vascular biology laboratory with many research studies on micro vascular endothelial function. This program will broaden my knowledge both as a researcher and a clinician.


D/H - What field of study most interests you?

ED - As a specialist in reproductive health, I am really interested in stem cell research and therapy. It is extraordinarily promising that stem cells, especially embryonic stem cells, can generate to any kind of cell. By generating the right guideline, we can cure many life-threatening diseases. There are ethical dilemmas in stem cell research but I hope that someday we can find a best way to use these cells in medical practice.


D/H - Can you share any challenges you have faced during your career?

ED - The challenge I experienced while getting my PhD was studying in a foreign country without knowing the language, and experiencing educational and cultural differences on top of new research work. The first year was especially challenging for me. Developing open, honest communications with my mentors and other students helped me to overcome those challenges.


D/H - Do you think there are certain challenges unique to women in science?

ED - If we want to attract the best and brightest minds into the fields that will move us forward, we can no longer look to only half of the population. There is a Mongolian movie about a woman zoologist, who dresses up as a man in order to get a job. Later, her employer is ashamed of himself after discovering her being a woman. Although this is fiction that was made more than 4 decades ago, it accurately describes real life and challenges women experience in science, that exist even nowadays.

L’Oréal–UNESCO
For Women in Science

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