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    Dr. Rachael Consoli: Delivering healing and teaching around the globe.

    Dr. Rachael Consoli:

    Photo By Staff Sgt. Courtney Davis | Dr. Rachael Consoli, OB-GYN at Brian D. Allgood Army Hospital, works with a patient,...... read more read more



    Story by Staff Sgt. Courtney Davis 

    USAG Humphreys

    CAMP HUMPHREYS, Republic of Korea – Rachael Consoli stepped out to stretch her legs on the streets of South Sudan. She took a deep breath and placed one foot on the street. After spending two weeks inside a convent delivering babies with nuns, this walk was needed. Her feet, with minds of their own, led her to a bridge. Before she could step foot on the bridge a young man stopped her in her tracks.
    “You cannot go any further,” he said. “You’re a spy.”
    She turned around and suddenly, she felt the cold press of steel against her head.
    “Now you Stop.”

    Origin Story
    Consoli is an obstetric and gynecological surgeon at the U.S. Army Garrison Humphreys, Brian D. Allgood Army Community Hospital. She said the love of caring for other people stemmed from being the oldest of eight children. Consoli said oftentimes her mother would leave her in charge of her younger sister and brothers while she needed to run an errand. Also, her dad was a physician and would take the children to the clinic with him and allow them to take vital signs and distribute medication to patients.
    “I felt thrilled when my dad asked us to help at the clinic,” said Consoli. “It was an honor to serve, and it was an honor to help human beings improve their health. I know being the oldest, and my dad allowing us to help, led me to where I am now.”
    As a fourth grader Consoli was tasked to write her autobiography for class and said even then she knew she would travel the world as a physician and OB-GYN delivering babies. Consoli’s plan in her autobiography began with the desire of helping the lepers in Molokai, an island in Hawaii, since it was a remote place, she read about. As Consoli grew older, her passion to heal and serve humanity never died. She graduated medical school in 1995 followed by residencies and fellowships: training in robotics and minimal invasive gynecological surgery and certification in pediatric and adolescent gynecology surgery. She also completed a master’s degree in public health.
    “Pediatric and adolescent gynecology surgery is very useful traveling the world as one of the focuses is reconstructive surgery on patients born with some abnormalities in their genital or pelvic area,” said Consoli. “We are charged with the mission to take care of them. We also work with 16-year-olds who haven’t started their cycles. We can see if she needs surgery to fix the problem, or if we need to administer hormones.”
    Once Consoli finished her training, she became a diplomat of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologist and a Fellow of the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology which creates guidelines for health care professionals and educational material for patients, provides career support, facilitates programs to improve women’s health, and advocate for members and patients. She then started to travel the globe as a volunteer surgeon and as a locum physician (a substitute for medical staff members in hospitals, clinics, or practices when they are ill or on leave). Being a volunteer opened doors for her to deliver babies all over the world and create Safe Motherhood Programs, a program providing expectant mothers with ultra-sounds, monthly check-ups, and information on birthing procedures. The program was established in places where maternal mortality rates were the highest. She has delivered a baby on every continent except Antarctica, but only because they do not allow pregnant women there. She jokingly said, she would not go there unless she snuck a pregnant woman in.
    Consoli has traveled internationally to places including: Uganda, Belize, Guam, China and Barrow Alaska working amongst the population and training up practitioners and midwives on how to successfully do a caesarean section, building Pap smear programs and decreasing maternal mortality rates. She said her admiration for the doctors and nurses grew as she watched them work 15-to-16-hour days, with smiles on their faces, as they saved lives and brought lives into the world.

    Answering the call
    Consoli said she was pleased with how well her career lined up to the dream she had as a fourth grader. However, there was still one missing ingredient, a destination that would put the icing on the birthing cake: South Sudan. Consoli said she has wanted to live in South Sudan since she was very young. So when she got the call from the Catholic Medical Mission Board saying they needed an OB-GYN to run their Safe Motherhood program, the only thing she could say was, “yes.”
    “I was the only physician for hundreds of thousands of people, except for a practitioner from Uganda, who took care of HIV adults,” said Consoli. “For seven months we heard rumors that the national security (called the N security) was coming to patrol the streets. Soon everyone started to assume the rumors were just that: rumors spread to keep kids from misbehaving and men from getting drunk and unruly. “
    One-day when Consoli was in her clinic working with pregnant women, she went into a room to retrieve a blood pressure cuff and when she came out everyone had disappeared.
    “How did 50 pregnant women escape so fast?” a baffled Consoli asked.
    She looked around the room still unable to find her patients, then she saw her midwife run towards her mouthing, “hey, hey doctor,” and signaling for her to get down. As the midwife got closer, Consoli heard her say, “the n security is for real.” Consoli said she heard “boom, boom” and shortly after “ping ping,” like bombs were going off and shots were being fired.
    Consoli couldn’t believe the attack was happening. The frightened midwife asked if there was a place to go because the Soldiers were fighting inside of their compound. As if saved by grace, Consoli remembered the Catholic priest had invited them in any emergency to hide with them. Taking the priest’s lead, the women followed him to the bush. There were people running all in a panic and the women ended up between bushes hiding under a tarp as they waited for help to arrive. For two weeks they hid, and during that time a little boy snuck out from under the tarp and brought back mangoes and bananas so the women wouldn’t starve.
    When the tarp was finally lifted, the sun shone through, revealing United Nations workers coming to the rescue. Everyone put on a bullet-proof vest, loaded into a tank, and were taken to another, safer, village greeted by nuns.
    “The nuns said, 'come work with us doctor and we’ll take care of you,'” said Consoli.
    Grateful for the haven, Consoli stayed and worked with the nuns. In the weeks she was there, Consoli stayed inside the convent working. The one day she decided it was time to go out and stretch her legs.
    It was after church one Sunday when Consoli stepped out to stretch her legs on the street of South Sudan. She took a deep breath and placed one foot outside of the convent. Her feet, with minds of their own, led her to the bridge. Before she could take a step, an 18-year-old boy appeared in front of her.
    “You cannot go any further,” he said. “You’re a spy.”
    The bridge was forbidden territory but lacked any signage. She tried to explain she was a doctor. When that didn’t work, she said he was not an officer and had no authority to detain her. As she turned around to go back to the village, saw the boy reach behind the tree. Her body froze and, as if in slow motion, he pulled out a machine gun and pointed it straight at her head.
    “Now you stop,” said the rebel boy. The boy was a member of the Arrow Boys. The Arrow Boys were an ad-hoc militia group put together as self-defense against another violent group of militants, the Lord's Resistance Army. Their name derived from their weapon of choice - arrows dipped in poison.
    With every intention of staying alive, Consoli did what was requested of her. A man with a motorcycle approached and she was told to get on the back of the bike. Unwillingly, she threw her leg over and sat down on the seat. Forty-five minutes transformed the land as they headed toward the Congo jungle. She'd heard stories of women being taken to the Congo and raped and the uncontrollable beating of her heart pulsated under her fingertips.
    The motorcycle reached its destination, the Rebel Boys’ compound, and Consoli said she noticed there were about 75 men, and no women present. The male to female ratio made her even more unsure of what her outcome would be.
    Darkness began to fall and Consoli tried to find ways to escape and get back to the convent. She told them about how she saved the life of their leader’s pregnant wife.
    “I took care of the leader of the Arrow Boys,” pleaded Consoli. “I took care of his wife when the baby was dying. I did a c-section. Now, she and her baby are alive."
    "They didn’t know what to do with me saving the life of the wife of their leader," she said.
    One of the Arrow Boys finally relented and let her call the bishop of the dioceses who proceeded to tell the rebels that she was a nun and an American, so she was not to be touched. Consoli played along and mentioned the members of the embassy would be wondering where she was if she was not back by night. She was set free on a promise: she would ask the embassy leader to provide arms for the rebellion.
    “The bishop paid for my release, I was worth $200 dollars,” laughed Consoli. “I was there a whole 12 hours and it was so stressful. When I look back on it now, it seems like a dream.”
    Later she met with one of the US embassy staff at a hotel and made sure she kept her promise to ask for arms. She said he responded with a wink and said, “duly noted.” Even with the incident Consoli said she would return to South Sudan because she loves it there and the women fill her heart with much joy.
    Never stop dreaming
    Today Consoli serves at Camp Humphreys as an OB-GYN at BDAACH on a three-year contract with the Defense Health Agency. The opportunity was presented to her when she applied to “Heroes to our Heroes” in the Journal of American Medical Association. She was offered Germany, Italy, Japan and South Korea and chose Korea because her sister works at Osan Air Base. This is the first time for her to work with service members and she is excited.

    Consoli’s fourth-grade dream became her reality and because she kept her eyes on being a servant to others, doors have swung wide open for her to continue to heal on a global scale. She can still be found delivering babies, this time for Soldiers, spouses and civilians, an
    d she can still be found wearing a smile on her face as she does it.

    “Go into the world and have courage,” said Consoli. “Be kind to each other and fulfill your dreams. If you have a dream to do something, then work hard to bring it to fruition. At the end of the day when you are fulfilled as a human being everything else makes sense. Be open minded because you never know what the next person is going through in their life. It is my privilege and honor to be here with the military families. I am not a hero, but I do believe I have had the opportunity to serve and work alongside some. I love you all so much.”



    Date Taken: 03.21.2023
    Date Posted: 03.21.2023 20:39
    Story ID: 440802
    Location: PAENGSEONG-EUP, 41, KR
    Hometown: BOSTON, MA, US
    Hometown: SALEM, MA, US

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