International Women’s Day

Happy International Women’s Day!

I could write this post on thousands of women who have been changing the world for years in their homes and communities – in big and small ways – seen and unseen.

But, I want to highlight my personal hero and friend, Dr. Edna Adan Ismail. One of the pivotal points in my life which made me want to be a global health epidemiologist was reading the book ‘Half the Sky’. (If you haven’t read it, go get it!). Edna was featured as one of the main women who are turning oppression into opportunity in the world. I read about this courageous woman from Somaliland who was the first midwife in her country, the first girl to win an international scholarship in Britain, the first female cabinet minister, the First Lady. She had a distinguished career with the WHO and then retired at 70 to go back to Somaliland and build the first maternal health facility, which continues to be one of the finest in the Horn of Africa. (She is now in her 80s and is not slowing down.)

Fast-forward a few years after reading that book and I met her in person when we went to the same conference. I got up enough courage to go and introduce myself and ask for a picture (because that’s what every 30ish-year-old-fan-gal does when you meet your hero). That picture is #3 on this post. =)

Then I stumbled on my words and said something like, “I’m an epidemiologist and one of your biggest fans. Can we work together?”. ha! And, it worked! Now, most of my global health work is with Edna and her incredible group of midwives, nurses, and surgeons. And, I’m still a major fan. Edna is one of the most gracious, strong, and courageous leaders I’ve ever met – and, I want you all to know her too.

Many of you have asked how you can help me financially. I’m working on some formal ways to do that. Until then, here’s what you can do that will make a difference to women in the world.

✅ 1) Go order Edna’s book! She wrote a powerful memoir of her own story. It’s so good and empowering and mine is highlighted all over.

✅ 2) Donate! Edna has a dream of training and equipping 1,000 midwives in her country of Somaliland. A beautiful country with some of the most generous people you’ll meet – and also a country with some of the highest rates of maternal and infant mortality. COVID-19 has also impacted the country with a lack of PPE, ventilators, and healthcare capacity. Let’s help make her dream come true, especially now during the pandemic.

✅ 3) Educate! Here are a few videos on Edna’s work and mission. Watch with your kids too (you might want to preview first depending on the age of your kids). Dr. Edna is a big deal to my Smith-kids. =)

-Edna’s TEDx talk –



One of my favorite quotes from Edna is, ” You should give up saying “I cannot do” and say instead “I will try to do”.”

Edna, we honor you today. Edna Adan Hospital Edna Adan Foundation

Happy International Women’s Day to all of you holding up the sky in your own homes and communities!


All pictures are from unless otherwise noted.

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