Dr.Fred Burbank on his postpartum hemorrhage (PPH) treatment device

Dr.Fred Burbank is the co-founder of the medical device (V-Stat), which is intended to be used to treat post-partum hemorrhage (PPH), the greatest cause of maternal mortality worldwide. Dr.Burbank Fred and his colleague Mike Jones and their wives, Melody and Tiffany started a non-profit organization called the Salt Creek International Women's Health Foundation (SCIWHF). In this interview, Dr.Burbank tells more about the work and the vision for the Salt Creek International  Women's Health Foundation (SCIWHF). 

From left to right: Dr.Fred Burbank, Melody Burbank, Dr.Louis Bank and Dr.Mahantesh Karoshi when they first met in London to discuss about the Salt Creek International Women's Health Foundation. (Photo: SCIWHF)

WOMEN & AFRICA:  How did go about developing the (V-Stat), your medical device?

Dr.Fred Burbank: Mike Jones, I and a few others first developed a non-invasive device for occluding the uterine arteries to treat uterine fibroids. As we progressed in this research, we realized that our non-invasive approach to the uterine arteries could be used to treat postpartum hemorrhage (PPH). Following limited early testing, we patented our PPH treatment device the (V-Stat) and sold it, along with other assets to Johnson & Johnson, Inc. 

WOMEN & AFRICA: In which parts of the world women suffer most from PPH?

Dr.Fred Burbank: Though PPH still occurs in developed countries, it is much more common and lethal in developing countries. Many women in developing countries are anemic prior to pregnancy and become progressively more anemic during pregnancy. Consequently, when they bleed excessively following childbirth, they are at risk at dying. Because PPH was not a Johnson & Johnson focus, they agreed to gift the patents and a generous cash award to the foundation that Mike Jones and I had started, the Salt Creek International Women's Health Foundation.

WOMEN & AFRICA: What has motivated to focus on developing countries?

Dr.Fred Burbank: We chose to focus our foundation on women in developing countries because we believed that simple medical device solutions that were not of interest to developed countries might me of value of less developed countries. In 2009, I received an email from a young Indian obstetrician and gynecologist Mahantesh Karoshi, living in England. He had crossed path with our V-stat device during a patent search at the U.S. patent website and saw its potential to be a simple tool for treating PPH. Dr.Karoshi is a world expert in the identification and treatment of PPH. Following many emails and a visit to London, we became friends and began working on ways to test the (V-Stat) device in developing countries.

WOMEN & AFRICA: What is the cost of your medical device ?
Dr.Fred Burbank: We are estimating at or just below $10.00 USD

WOMEN & AFRICA: If someone living in a developing country wants to buy the medical device, what are the steps to take?
Dr.Fred Burbank: The (V-Stat) medical device is intended for use by a medical professional. Initially, it will be used in a controlled setting like a teaching hospital to learn the risks and benefits of the device will be sold to medical parishioners who have been trained on how to use the device.

WOMEN & AFRICA: Have the foundation already connected or trained people working in the medical field in developing countries? 
Dr.Fred Burbank: No. Since we have to study the device in a clinical research setting first, most of our communications have been with researchers in maternal health. Though it may be some time before we can set forth to train practitioners (outside of a research setting), we would like to connect with people working in the field so we can learn from their personal experiences and the context in which they work. This way, we can make better decisions in our research. More importantly, we can begin to develop relationships that will enrich our program  now and later play a very active role. We certainly cannot do this alone. We will never become masterminds of another cultural or geographical context. We are eager to make new connections with organizations, individuals and medical practitioners who are closely connected to maternal health, and specifically, PPH.

WOMEN & AFRICA: How do you intend to  make sure that mothers living in developing countries will have access to your medical device?
Dr.Fred Burbank: We are not far enough in our project to know this answer with any degree of certainty. We still have many questions that need answering. As we learn more about the device through our clinical research and connect with those working in the medical field where we believe the device will be most useful, we can start to formulate strategies that will ensure all mothers have access to the device.

WOMEN & AFRICA: What is your vision?
Dr.Fred Burbank: When I think about how this will play out, I envision training health care providers of varied levels of training and education on how to use the V-Stat device. It is our goal to make a device that is easy to use and safe, which will allow a health worker of average skill to save lives. If health care providers can first learn to use this device in a hospital or tertiary health care facility during a group-training program, then they will be able to leave the training facility with their own reusable device to be carried in their 'toolkit' for PPH treatment. 

WOMEN & AFRICA: Which role will health practitioners play in the process?
Dr.Fred Burbank: As long as a practitioner does not lose the device or run it over with a vehicle, it can be used nearly indefinitely since it is made of stainless steel. It will be most important that mothers have access to a health care practitioner who is trained in using the device. 

WOMEN & AFRICA: And mothers?
Dr.Fred Burbank: This would also require that a mother elects to give birth in the care of a trained health care provider, whether a skilled birth attendant, midwife or other. Our challenge will be to scale-up training and use the device in multiple countries rapidly once we are able to commercialize the device!

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