A Pioneering Doctor Gives Men “Una Sonrisa Permanente”
Dr. Emeliza Rodriguez is a vibrant physician who is passionate about her work. The gynecologist and mother of three is also a pioneer in her country. She is one of the few service providers in all of Honduras trained in the country’s latest hot topic: vasectomy. EngenderHealth has been training doctors and nurses in Honduras to provide permanent and long-term contraception since the 1980s. But this year, vasectomy came to the public sector and became “sexy” based on the creation and launch of a new social marketing campaign called “Logra Una Sonrisa Permanente” (“Get a Permanent Smile”).
EngenderHealth (with its partners in the ACQUIRE Project and with the Honduran Ministry of Health) launched the “Permanent Smile” campaign in June 2005. It is a full-scale social marketing program designed to normalize vasectomy, educate about its benefits, address fears, and debunk misconceptions about its effect on a man’s virility. Interested men are directed to one of three facilities, where they find practitioners trained by EngenderHealth in no-scalpel vasectomy.
Working for the Ministry of Health and for a small health center in the capital city of Tegucigalpa, Dr. Rodriguez has already seen the positive results of the campaign: “The male population has been neglected for many years. Most of them have the wrong idea that family planning or anything about contraception is women’s responsibility only. So the fact that men are coming to the center asking for vasectomy services is a great achievement in Honduras.”
Dr. Rodriguez comes from a family of doctors, but was the only one to focus on reproductive health—a fact that required some explanation to, and convincing of, her Catholic mother and aunts. After graduating from medical school as a gynecologist in 2000, she worked on outpatient care for two years while taking care of her three small children. In 2003, Dr. Rodriguez was contacted by the Ministry of Health to work on permanent, long-term contraceptive methods. While considered necessary, vasectomy training is not offered in the medical schools in Honduras. As a result, EngenderHealth fills the gap. Dr. Rodriguez received a two-week training on no-scalpel vasectomy in July 2004.
Despite her invaluable contribution, Dr. Rodriguez does not take much credit for her position in the spotlight. For her, the spotlight belongs to the poor families she works with and the men who are changing their attitudes about family planning. She adds, “It has been a gratifying experience for me to work on surgical contraception during the last few years. We work in a very poor community of families with many children and no economic resources. The fact that we can provide these quality services to them, along with the other professionals in the health center, is a great humanitarian service to the community.”
“There is clearly a demand for these services, and only three centers in all Honduras are not enough to cover the current demand.”