Laura E Stachel, Medical doctor with practice in Sanfransisco M.D, M.P.H. the co-founder and executive director of WE CARE Solar, is a board-certified obstetrician-gynecologist with fourteen years of clinical experience. Her work at We Care Solar brings life-saving “solar suitcases” to hospitals and clinics in developing countries. In 2008, while on a graduate student research trip to rural Nigeria, Stachel, was shocked to observe obstetric care in a Nigerian hospital with unreliable electricity. She watched as nurses struggled to deliver babies by kerosene lantern, surgeons worked in near darkness, and critically ill mothers were turned away at night. These conditions put mothers’ and babies’ lives at risk, contributing to the 300,000 maternal deaths estimated each year globally—99% of which occur in the developing world. Doctors and midwives often helped delivered babies with only a cell phone lamp or lantern for light. With her husband, a solar expert, she devised a way to bring light to clinics in Nigeria and other Third World countries by creating a solar kit that could fit inside a suitcase. It was small enough to sneak past customs and big enough to power 2 bright lights, as well as medical equipment.
The solar suitcase has had instant and powerful results in clinics around the world. Stachel’s organization, WE CARE Solar, has distributed solar suitcases to 20 different countries, including Haiti, Afghanistan and Liberia. Since 2009, more than 400 “solar suitcases” have served mothers and babies in over 20 countries. Stachel’s goal is to light up 10,000 clinics in the next five years, serving 2 million mothers and babies. Stachel holds a M.D. from University of California, San Francisco and an M.P.H. in Maternal and Child Health from University of California, Berkeley.