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Dayne Logan, Editor.  Layout and Design by Kimber Whanger.  Comments or suggestions about our newsletter?   Contact us

Gaining Momentum in Serbia  


In the summer issue of the Kybele newsletter, I will share the story of Dr. Ivan Velickovic.  As I've come to know him better, I've learned that he does not give up.  He dreamed of improving labor and delivery experiences for women in his home country of Serbia but did not know how.  As the Director of Obstetric Anesthesia at SUNY-Downstate, NY and the Kybele team leader for Serbia, he knew conditions could and should be better in Serbia.  He found that most women were put to sleep for cesarean section and did not have options for labor pain relief.  For more than a year, he tried to spark interest for collaboration in Serbia to no avail.  All that changed when he met Dr. Borislave Pujic, an anesthesiologist at one of the largest childbirth hospitals in Serbia, the Clinical Center Vojvodina in Novi Sad.  Through their collaboration, and the with able co-leadership of Dr. Curtis Baysinger of Vanderbilt University, the Kybele program in Serbia has taken off.  Truly taken off.  This newsletter will feature some of that program's successes.
Several of the June 2015 Serbian Workshop Coordinators and Presenters
Seated:  Dr. Borislava Pujic, Dr. Ferne Braveman, Dr. Emily Sharpe, Dr. Craig Palmer
Standing L to R: Dr. Miroslav Kendrisic, Dr. Mirjana Kendrisic, Dr. Ivan Velickovic, Cassa Palmer

Kybele Team-Serbia Co-Leader, Dr. Curtis Baysinger presents during the Serbia workshop.
Kybele-Serbia has been developing a unique training workshop that is quickly growing in popularity, not only across Serbia, but also in surrounding countries.  September 2015 will mark the fifth workshop since 2012, and the program is now conducted twice per year.  A key feature of the worksho is hands-on, interactive learning at the point of patient care.  The program is also pushing the boundaries in anesthesiology residency education.  Kybele's work was presented at the 47th annual meeting of the Society for Obstetric Anesthesiology and Perinatology (SOAP) held in Colorado Springs, CO in May.  Pujic was sponsored by Kybele to attend the meeting and spent two additional weeks in North Carolina as an observer at Forsyth Medical Center and Duke University Medical Center.  While at the SOAP meeting, we were delighted to learn that Velickovic and Baysinger were awarded the SOAP International Outreach grant, which will fund a research study in Serbia.

That good news was bolstered further when Dr. Craig Palmer, a renowned and respected obstetric anesthesiologist from Arizona, was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship to teach in Serbia and expand Kybele's work.  His presence will support and accelerate improvement in obstetric care across Serbia.  We are excited to share these achievements and more in this newsletter.  Thanks for reading and enjoy the remainder of summer!

With appreciation, 

Medge Owen Sig 

Medge D. Owen, M.D., President - Kybele, Inc.

Professor of Obstetric Anesthesia

Director of Global Health, Novant Health Maya Angelou Women's Health and Wellness Center  

Wake Forest University School of Medicine  |  336.713.9182  | 

Fulbright Scholar Dr. Craig Palmer to Work in Serbia 

Article by Erin Pfeiffer 
Dr. Craig Palmer Kybele is thrilled to announce that Fulbright Scholar Dr. Craig Palmer will work alongside our Serbia partners in 2016.  Palmer, an obstetric anesthesiologist, has served on the faculty at the University of Arizona more than 25 years and became acquainted with Kybele over the past decade as a regular attendee at the annual Society for Obstetric Anesthesia and Perinatology meetings, where he met Kybele founder Dr. Medge Owen.  As a Fulbright alumna herself, Owen shared her experience of developing a passion for global medical work during her time abroad.

Palmer's longstanding interest in Kybele and the Fulbright program came to fruition this year when he was able to take time away from his academic career and pursue an opportunity to use his skills and talents internationally.  After connecting with two anesthesiologists from Serbia at the SOAP meeting who were very enthusiastic about their partnership with Kybele, Palmer talked with Owen about Kybele's work there.  His interest in serving in Eastern Europe grew, and he soon submitted a proposal to conduct obstetric anesthesia training and research in Serbia.  Among thousands of applicants for a Fulbright grant, Palmer was chosen.

Wasting no time, Palmer traveled to Serbia with Kybele in June this year to set the foundation for his program.  Beginning in January 2016, Palmer will spend four months living and working alongside Serbian physicians and residents in Novi Sad.

During his initial visit, Palmer expressed how bright and energetic the Serbian anesthesiologists are, but said increased exposure to many techniques and procedures could improve the comfort and quality of care they provide to women in childbirth.  His initial task will be
to support health personnel and increase their comfort level using regional anesthesia for vaginal deliveries and Cesarean sections.  He says he also hopes to involve clinical staff in research in order to build their enthusiasm and grow their reputation as published professionals in the field.  Palmer will work with the departmental and hospital administration to set up a reliable registry of patients, establish and implement key procedures and techniques, and design a searchable database that can be used to track health statistics and trends over time.

"It will be a major adventure," he says, "I hope to elevate the standard of practice of obstetric anesthesia at the Klinicki Centar Vojvodine in Novi Sad and maybe have a positive impact on the care of women delivering in Serbia."

The Fulbright Scholar Program awards highly competitive, merit-based grants for international educational exchange for scholars and professionals to study, conduct research and share their talents abroad.  The Fulbright Program is one of the most prestigious awards programs worldwide.  We are honored to have Dr. Palmer and the Fulbright Program partner with Kybele!

Watch a Serbian television interview with Dr. Palmer and Dr. Borislava Pujic.  
(Much of the interview is in Serbian, however Dr. Palmer explains his involvement in English.)

MEBCI - Kybele Stakeholders Meeting
Article by Sebnem Ucer  
MEBCI meeting in Accra, Ghana 

Making Every Baby Count Initiative (MEBCI) is a collaborative project between the Ghana Health Service (GHS), PATH, and Kybele.  The project's goal is for 90% of babies born in targeted health facilities to receive essential newborn care and interventions to address asphyxia, infection, and prematurity according to the government guidelines.  Kybele hosted the first MEBCI-Kybele Stakeholders Meeting and provided an overview of the initiative to Ghanaian Regional Hospitals on April 7 and 8 in Accra, Ghana.

Thirty-nine participants representing five regional hospitals, the Ghana Health Service, PATH and Kybele took part.  The two-day event started with the welcoming address and introductions by Dr. Yemi Olufolabi and continued with Dr. Emanuel Srofenyoh's overview of Kybele/GHS work at Ridge Regional Hospital (RRH) (2007-2012).

The MEBCI project was introduced, and expansion to four targeted regional hospitals was discussed.  Dr. Medge Owen shared findings from Kybele team's site visit to the four regional hospitals in late January, and Dr. Rohit Ramaswamy discussed the role of quality improvement in hospital settings as well as the importance of building capacity to help sustain quality of care. Several of those in attendance were invited in the hope they would assume MEBCI leadership roles in the regional hospitals.

The first day of the meeting included a site visit to RRH.  Kybele project leaders, including Srofenyoh, gave tours of RRH's labor ward, NICU, Obstetric Emergency Triage area and theater.

Members of the stakeholders meeting tour the facilities at Ridge Regional Hospital.

The second day started with a discussion centered on the RRH site visit and best practices.  Later, a session was held on the importance of data, a discussion of key data to collect and an overview of RRH's electronic database.  The day continued with institutional presentations on behalf of regional hospitals Sunyana Regional Hospital (Brong-Ahafo region), Koforidua Regional Hospital (Eastern region), Ho Regional Hospital (Volta region) and Kumasi Regional Hospital (Ashanti region).  The expansion, rollout plan, goals and timetable for the future were also discussed. 

UPDATE: Kybele hosted a second stakeholders meeting regarding data collection in association with the MEBCI project in Koforidua, Ghana on May 21. Data is already being collected and shared for comparison among the other regional institutions.

Kybele is pleased with the progress made thus far in these two important meetings that brought together people from several sectors of the medical community in the name of safer childbirth throughout the country.

Borislava Pujic - A Driving Force in Serbia
Article by Kimber Whanger

In May of 2015 at the 47th annual SOAP conference, I had the opportunity to spend some quality time with Dr. Borislava Pujic. While I had met her briefly several times before, it was my pleasure to spend the week in Colorado Springs learning more about her personal life and her obstetric anesthesiology work in Serbia.
Her beautiful red hair and stylish fashion sense matches her enthusiastic personality perfectly and I learned that along with her outstanding achievements as a medical professional, she is also a driving force for change in obstetric practice in her home country.
L to R:  Emily Sharpe (Obstetric Anesthesia Fellow at
Wake Forest University and Kybele-Serbia Team Member and Dr. Borislava Pujic at the June 2015 Workshop Conference in Novi Sad, Serbia.
Dr. Pujic lectures during the June 2015
Workshop Conference in Novi Sad.

Married for 34 years and the mother of 3 sons, Pujic wanted to become a part of an OB Anesthesiology Team at the end of her medical school residency, but unfortunately her destiny was a little bit different. She worked as a general anesthesiologist in a military hospital for about 11 years before returning to school to study obstetric anesthesiology and ultimately finishing her masters degree in 2001. She has been working in Novi Sad in obstetrics for over 20 years and has been an invited lecturer in Serbia, Hungary, Belgrade, Romania, and Croatia. In addition, Pujic has also given poster presentations in Yugoslavia, Serbia, UK, Canada, and the US.
When I asked her how she met up with Kybele-Serbia Team Leader, Dr. Ivan Velickovic she related this amusing story...
"We were both attending the Serbian Anesthesia Congress in 2010 in Belgrade. We were standing near each other in front of our medical presentation posters and we started talking. I asked him something about his practice. He said we could talk about it during the coffee break. And then I said to myself 'Yeah, right! You are such an over confident American man and I hate that kind of man. You think you are so much better than me because you live in the US and have whatever you want at your work place.' Even though we never had that coffee, we became best friends after that meeting. Ivan shares my dream of having our work make a long-lasting difference not only in my country, but in other countries in the region. That is our great wish."

Dr. Ivan Velickovic and Dr. Borislava Pujic - June 2015
It was apparent as I spent time with both Dr. Pujic and Dr. Velickovic that week at SOAP that they indeed are great friends who share a passion for Serbia and the work Kybele is doing. Dr. Pujic also shared her sincere appreciation for the opportunity to travel to the annual SOAP meeting the last several years to network with other physicians, and to spread that knowledge with her colleagues back home. It has been exciting to see the growth of the Kybele-Serbia program thanks to the leadership of Dr. Pujic, Dr. Velickovic and Dr. Baysinger.
I also received a special birthday gift that week as Dr. Pujic gave me one of the beautiful hand painted silk scarves made by Svetlana (see story) as a special reminder of the relationship Kybele has with our Serbian friends.

Meet Brianne Kallam - Kybele Program Associate 

Brianne Kallam
Article by Erin Pfeiffer

Kybele is pleased to introduce Brianne Kallam as the new program associate for the organization. Brianne will support the Ghana Making Every Baby Count Initiative by monitoring several quality-improvement initiatives at Ridge Regional Hospital and coordinatingefforts to expand project activities to four regional hospitals. The following interview illuminates the passion and talent Brianne brings to the Kybele team.

What is your academic background, and how did you get interested in this field?
After my undergraduate degree in biology from UNC Chapel Hill, I began my career in a laboratory researching HIV. After a few years, it was clear that I had a heart for working with people, so I returned to UNC for my masters in public health, specializing in maternal and child health at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health.

How did you first get connected with Kybele, and what has your role been since then?
I first worked with Kybele as a graduate student research assistant while studying maternal and child health. I started out managing projects aiming to improve the quality of care at Ridge Regional Hospital in Ghana. Upon my graduation in May 2015, I joined the Kybele team full-time as theprogram associate.  My favorite part about my job is maintaining communication with the local staff in Ghana in between field visits. It is such a fast-paced environment that you have to keep up with what is happening!

What have been some of the most impactful things you've seen in Ghana while working with Kybele? 
During my first visit to Ghana, I had the privilege of witnessing the birth of twins. It was the first time I had ever seen a birth, and twins made it doubly special.  Kybele has made it a point to keep the mother and baby at the center of all of their work, and this delivery made that very evident. Of course, it is important to keep both the mother and baby safe during childbirth, but I was struck by how Kybele is surpassing this expectation by encouraging the local midwives to ensure that mothers are not only safe during childbirth but also have a positive experience.
Twins born at Ridge Regional Hospital
during Brianne's first visit to Ghana.
After being present for the delivery of the twins during my field visit to Ghana, I trained to become certified as a doula (a support role during childbirth). I now volunteer at the Women's Hospital at UNC to provide support to teen and single mothers during labor and delivery. It has been a really neat way to see maternal and child health in action!

What do you think Kybele is doing that is bringing about significant change?
Kybele goes above and beyond the typical clinical training model. The Kybele team does not just drop in, teach one medical skills course and then leave. They have invested deeply in Ridge Regional Hospital, not only in the care of patients but also in the medical staff. It is this extra effort to build up the staff as leaders and problem solvers that is leading to lasting change.


SOAP Update - Outreach Grant
Kybele Serbian team leaders Drs. Ivan Velickovic and Curtis Baysinger received the 2015 Society for Obstetric Anesthesia and Perinatology International Outreach Grant on a project entitled "Intrathecal Morphine Chloride with Sodium Edetate for Post Cesarean Section Analgesia." This study, which will involve 2,000 patients over three years, has the potential to significantly improve postoperative pain management for patients in countries where preservative-free morphine is not available. 

Kybele Publication Update
Kybele team members have been writing and publishing key findings from our work over the past few years.  We are pleased to share seveal recent publications in peer-reviewed journals.  One article, "Teaching Neuroaxial Anesthesia Techniques for Obstetric Care in a Ghanaian Referral Hospital: Achievements and Obstacles", appeared in highly ranked journal Anesthesia and Analgesia and was accompanied by an editorial.  We are anticipating several additional publications in the coming months.  Read our publications HERE.

Board Members - Thank You for Your Service  

The following Kybele board members have rotated off of the board and we sincerely thank them for their outstanding support of our organization.

Frank James
Frank James III, M.D., is Professor Emeritus of Anesthesiology at Wake Forest University School of Medicine, Winston-Salem, North Carolina. He has served as past President of the Society for Obstetric Anesthesia and Perinatology, the American Board of Anesthesiology, the Association of University Anesthesiologists, the Society of Academic Anesthesiology Chairs and the Foundation for Anesthesia Education and Research. He was also Chairman of the Department of Anesthesiology at Wake Forest University. In addition to numerous academic awards and honors, he has an extensive publication record including textbooks, book chapters, and peer-reviewed journal articles, focusing on a key clinical interest, obstetric anesthesiology.

Frank was a founding board member and most recently served as Treasurer.

Shannon Koontz 
Shannon Koontz is a freelance public and media relations consultant and writer, and a former television news executive producer and reporter for news media stations in North Carolina, South Carolina and Florida.  She has also served as the National Media Relations Manager for Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, the Associate Director of Communications for Wake Forest University Schools of Business, and the Web Editor for a regional parenting magazine.  Shannon earned a B.S. in Broadcast Communications and a B.A. in English from Appalachian State University. She currently lives in Winston-Salem with her husband and two children.  

Shannon has been a Kybele board member since 2012.

Michael Rieker  
Michael Rieker, DNP, CRNA, FAAN, is a professor at WFUBMC, where he serves as the Director of the Nurse Anesthesia Program. His 20 years as a CRNA include extensive clinical practice across the country, and he also served as a chief CRNA in obstetrics. Dr. Rieker has been a featured speaker in over 80 state, national, and international venues. He is active in state and national advocacy activities, including serving on the editorial board of the International Student Journal of Nurse Anesthesia. Dr. Rieker has been involved with Kybele since 2006, particularly with the Ghana project. He played a key role in development of the new nurse anesthesia training program in Ghana in 2009.

Michael has been a Kybele board member since 2012.

Svetlana - Serbian Artist and Painter    

Article by Borislava Pujic. Condensed by Kimber Whanger

This is an unusual story about an amazing girl from Sombor, a small town in Vojvodina, Serbia. She was born there and still lives in the same place. She is an artist, wife, and mother of two sons.
Svetlana's story begins about 50 years ago in a very poor family. Even though the family was poor, the parents provided a lot of love and nurturing to their two children. In addition, they also adopted another girl and raised her as their own daughter. Svetlana's father insisted that all his children needed to know how to plant corn, wheat, vegetables, herbs and all manner of a farmer's job. (Just in case any of them wanted to marry a farmer.) At the same time, they were taught different "women's jobs" - knitting, embroidering, tailoring, cooking, playing an instrument, driving - just in case they decided to marry a "gentleman".
Svetlana studied agriculture at university and nearly finished but did not pass her final examination. As a result, she was very unhappy because she did not finish her degree. With this setback, she decided to change her life and search out her happiness. Having grown up in a loving family, Svetlana always believed in love and found her soul mate nearly 20 years ago whom she married and raised two sons. In order to stay at home with the boys, she used her creative skills to begin painting on silk as a means to make an income and to encourage their own creativity. She also found painting to be a source of peace and pleasure and at one time owned a little shop, but now continues her work from home.
Although her life has been very turbulent at times, her enormous energy and talent has created something special with her artwork. Svetlana regularly displays her wares at traditional festivals supported by the Serbian Touristic organization. She also volunteers her time teaching hands-on courses for small children to learn to paint on natural materials such as wood or cotton. She shares her enormous positive energy with all who are open-minded and women around the world who have received her scarves as presents now have a connection with her.
Svetlana is very proud to be a merchandise supplier to Kybele and that her beautiful silk scarves will be displayed in the United States. She also is thrilled that she is a small part of the work that Kybele does to improve conditions for mothers and their babies worldwide.
Svetlana's one-of-a-kind hand painted silk scarves are sold at Kybele merchandise events throughout the year.

We Thank The Following for Their Support

 PATH  |  Society for Obstetric Anesthesia and Perinatology  |  The Obstetric Anaesthetists' Association     
The International Association for the Study of Pain  |   Novant Health: Maya Angelou Women's Health and Wellness Center
World Federation of Societies of Anaesthesiologists   |  Wake Forest Department of Anesthesiology 

Kybele would also like to recognize and thank all of our 2014 DONORS
and all those who have PARTICIPATED ON A KYBELE TEAM.
Your support is essential to our work and we greatly appreciate you.

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Contact us if you are interested in hosting a Kybele merchandise party, wish to purchase merchandise or have an event that is appropriate for us to display/sell
our items.

September 25
Perinatal Resources Conference
Columbus, OH


Board of Directors 


Curtis Baysinger, MD 

Ronald George, MD

Holly Muir, MD  

Yemi Olufolabi, MD

Medge Owen, MD 

Nancy Pearson, RN 

Rohit Ramaswamy, PhD  

Melvin Seid, MD    

Leigh Stanfield



Sebnem Ucer

Accounts Manager


Kimber Whanger

Marketing & Admin


Erin Pfeiffer

Grants Manager


Lynn Snyder

Programs Coordinator


Brianne Kallam

Program Associate 


Dayne Logan




Kybele Logo - Click Here to Learn More. 

Kybele, Inc. is a non-profit 501(c)3 humanitarian organization dedicated to improving childbirth safety worldwide through educational partnerships. The role of Kybele is to bring professional medical teams into host countries, to work alongside doctors and nurses in their home hospitals, to improve healthcare standards. Kybele volunteers provide hands-on training in medical techniques during the actual care of patients in labor wards and in operating rooms. Kybele volunteers model teamwork and compassion in real life and death situations, sharing knowledge when it matters the most.
If you would like to nominate a person or person(s) for the Board of Directors or would like more information about Board or Committee Membership, please contact a board or staff member.   3524 Yadkinville Road #124 Winston-Salem, NC 27106