We use tried and tested business methods to end the injustice of fistula.
By mixing leading minds from a breadth of backgrounds, our movement offers the greatest chance to transform systems. Operation Fistula is composed of leading business minds and corporate executives, women’s health thought leaders, and expert surgeons.
Founded by an operations engineer passionate about fighting injustice
After achieving financial success on the operating side of private equity, Seth Cochran reoriented his career to target inequity.
“I wanted to ‘retire early’ and devote all my time, energy and business acumen to fighting injustice. When I read about obstetric fistula, I knew I had found my cause. I had never heard of anything so terrible, correctable, and ignored.”
In early 2008, Cochran left his promising career to devote himself to ending fistula, a health problem in Africa and South Asia, even though he knew nothing about health, Africa or South Asia.
Innovation guided by thought leaders in global women’s health
Cochran launched Operation Fistula at the 2008 Skoll World Forum, where he met Dr. Nafis Sadik. As a lifelong advocate for women and obstetric fistula champion, Dr. Sadik immediately recognized the potential Cochran’s passion and unique background brought to the fight against fistula.
Not only did Dr. Sadik personally mentor Seth in his journey to build Operation Fistula, she also introduced him to many other colleagues and people she had mentored throughout her illustrious career fighting for improved women’s health and gender rights. Each of these people added another dimension to the effort to build and expand Operation Fistula.
Solutions led by African doctors, nurses and social workers
Cochran knew from his prior business career that if you wanted to know how to fix things, you needed to ask the people closest to the problem for their solutions.
He headed to Africa and started moving across the continent on public buses. African hospitality allowed Seth to quickly immerse himself in the environment and build relationships with the African service providers who would lead the effort to end fistula in their respective countries.
By listening closely to their locally informed ideas for change, Cochran could understand the challenges and barriers these people faced on a daily basis. Then he worked with these local changemakers and his global women’s health mentors to craft these ideas into a globally innovative strategy.
“ There are over a million women suffering from fistula and it’s debilitating: they can’t work, they are ostracized. It’s not that expensive to solve but it’s not top of the pile because it’s not a killer. It’s going to remain beyond the reach of most healthcare systems in the developing world, so it needs to be funded philanthropically.”
Philanthropist, Angel Investor and Dragon in BBC TV’s Dragons’ Den
“The advent of modern obstetric care has led to the eradication of obstetric fistula in nearly every industrialised country. However, in the developing world obstetric fistula continues to cause untold pain and suffering in millions of women. The very existence of this condition is the result of gross societal and institutional neglect of women that is, by any standard, an issue of rights and equity.”
Dr. France Donnay
Founder of UN Campaign to End Fistula and former Senior Program Officer of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation
When she isn’t coordinating partnerships at Operation Fistula HQ, Bryony plays hockey, is a self-declared professional bargain hunter, and enjoys flexitarian brunches.
Take Chloe away from doing a stellar job in Data Analytics, and you’ll find her pretending to understand abstract theatre, going to the pub on Sundays, and buying food she can’t afford.
When Camilla isn’t making sure everyone and everything at the office is in order, she enjoys walking her black lab “Checka”, catching up with friends, doing a bit of yoga, and spending quality time with her family.
When Fidèle isn’t performing life-changing surgery, he likes a lemon-infused coffee, driving his gold car around town and is a proud member of the Lions club.
When Helen is taking time out from being our Communications guru, you’ll find her exploring the newest local coffee roasters and micro-breweries. She loves dogs and cheese, and is allergic to pessimism.
When Kate isn’t keeping everything running smoothly at Operation Fistula HQ, she’s a board game enthusiast and likes running. She loves a well-curated cheese board, and playing squeaky toy with her one-eyed rescue dog, Oscar.
When Jenny’s not doing essential research for Operation Fistula, she loves to spend time rock climbing, reading books, and hanging out with her two teenagers.
When Mel isn’t being our Programs rock star, she’s seeking out adventures across the globe, is a talented photographer, and loves a good Disney sing-along.
When Naledi’s not making delightful data visualizations, she loves to go kayaking, play volleyball, read and podcast, and get all creative with some crafts.
Founder & CEO
When Seth isn’t thinking about ways to end fistula globally (which is never), he loves spending time with his family, enjoys early morning swims, and brewing home-made kombucha.
Our Board of Directors and Trustees
Founder & CEO
White & Case
Partner, Head of Global Pro Bono Practice, Member of Partnership Committee
Senior Director, Global Partnerships
Senior Director, Americas Operations
Dr. France Donnay
Former Senior Program Officer for Maternal Health at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
Dr. Sohier Elneil
Author of the FIGO Global Competency-Based Fistula Surgery Training Manual, and Former Board Chair of the Fistula Foundation
Founder of Moonpig, Former CEO and Current Board Member of Absolute Return for Kids, and Enterprise Fellow of the Prince’s Trust
Thomson Reuters Foundation
Head of NGO and Social Enterprise