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July 16th, 2009
Birth of a Surgeon
Full Episode

WIDE ANGLE travels to Mozambique, where a bold grassroots initiative to train midwives in advanced life-saving surgery has significantly reduced the country’s maternal death rate.

Birth of a Surgeon follows Emilia Cumbane, one of the first midwives-in-training. She performs Cesarean sections and hysterectomies in makeshift operating rooms in rural Mozambique. We follow Cumbane from her home in the Mozambican capital Maputo, into intensive medical classes, through night shifts in the delivery wards, and watch as she fights for recognition of her surgical competence.

Originally aired in 2008, for the episode’s 2009 encore presentation WIDE ANGLE host Aaron Brown meets with Cumbane to see how both she and the program are faring. Cumbane, now the head of the maternal ward, has a two-week-old baby herself, and Brown explores the successes and obstacles she has faced over the last year, as she has tried to juggle her personal and professional commitments, all the while working to help save women’s lives.

  • Roxanna

    This was a powerful and touching documentary. I would love many others to see this.

  • Rebecca Kightlinger, DO

    This video has received wonderful reviews but does not appear to be available for viewing. Can you please make it possible to view the video on this website?
    Thanks very much, I’ll check back later today.
    Rebecca Kightlinger, DO
    Director of Women’s Health Programs
    Remote Area Medical Volunteer Corps

  • Tom Acker

    I think that it is timely for us in the US to consider alternative healthcare models by looking at other countries’ approaches.
    Though the situation in Mozambique is clearly different from the US I would propose that the lack of healthcare professionals that Mozambique experiences has parallels in rural areas of the US as well as inner city communities.
    I wish to share this video with my class but the website says it is no longer available.
    How can I access it?
    I also was interested in the role of the Cuban MD in training the native practitioners especially since I am teaching a Spanish for healthcare for the nursing program here in rural western Colorado.

  • Stephanie

    Wonderful documentary. As a Certified Nurse Midwife and RN First Assistant in the US who has lived and worked in very Rural areas where a Physician is not available for an hour, I hope the US can consider alternative Healthcare Models such as these. I hope Mr. Obama has had time to see documentaries like these.

  • Asmuyeni Muchtar

    This is wonderful to safe mother and baby life, could it is happen in very rural areas, mountain, small island in Indonesia ? where there is no doctor available, only a midwife.

  • Maria Barrow

    This was an excellent and very inspiring documentary. What a great lady! She was able to show us with grace and humor that one person really can make a difference.

  • Laura

    There is a similar organization in Latin America that emphasizes the role of medical education in global health. Andean Health and Development at Thank you for this piece.

  • Asha

    Bravo, Emila! You have many accomplishments to be proud of. There is not anything more dangerous than to bring a child into this world. In countries in Africa, this statement reigns true. Midwives, trained professionals in health care, are the leaders because the majority of work we expect from doctors, aren’t done because economically many doctors don’t see themselves caring for the sick in the rural and poor areas, rather in the comforts of modern hospitals. Please, let’s wake up and understand that this epidemic can be solved through grassroots efforts.

  • Anne

    I live in a rural area with no hospitals within a 50 mile radius. Who can we appeal to for this badly needed, life saving hospital? Many die in ambulance on the long trip to ER. One highly skilled,caring, exceptional M.D.who actually listened and talked to his patients practiced for a few months 25 miles from here, but is leaving because he has no help, and had to work during Christmas alone and could not even attend his mother’s funeral. Property was purchased for hospital close by, but doctor told me it wasn’t going to happen. IDEAS?

  • Estevao Canhanga

    EMILIA, I think that you are uique and should be considered as an hero because of all that you are showing to the wolrd. It seems impossible for viewers of other countries.
    Hope that your plan contiues as a lesson to others.
    God bless you Emili.

  • Stephan

    Why the episodes aren’t available for Canadians to watch??? I have to go through a proxy to see them and it is very frustrating…

  • Renee

    BRAVO Emilia!

    Stand strong, the personal sacrifices you are making will make a great impact in many lives!!! Your daughter will see this as well.

  • Estevao Canhanga

    I wander why the film no longer cant be seen by most of the vewers on the internet?

    I would like to show my friend who did not have the oportunity to see as I had.


  • Kiana

    This was a very life changing video for me!

  • Caron Margarete

    Have tried to watch the video but it will not play. Would really like to watch it as I’m keen to do a write up for it on my site. Is it loaded onto a youtube channel? I can only find the 3min PBS piece…

  • Multimedia Producer

    This episode can only be viewed online in the United States. Copies of our many of our films are available for purchase from the Films Media Group:, however Birth of a Surgeon is not one of them.

  • feltzr

    Due to international broadcasting agreements, the episode is only available in the United States.

  • obrn

    I would love to be able to watch this. However, it is blocked to anyone not in the States. Any suggestions for getting a copy of it?

  • feltzr

    Many of our films are available for purchase here

  • obrn

    Yes many are available, but not this one. With a price tag of $129-$165 for a 60min DVD, there is really no incentive to purchase from that site. For such a fantastic concept and highly reviewed film, I would think the film makers would want to make it more accessible to the public.

  • Yves Giroux

    It would be most important to permit Canadians to watch programs on the internet. I was shock that its not possible.
    Yves Giroux
    Québec , Canada

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