Professor Wall's research interests involve the intersection of biology and culture, with particular reference to women’s reproductive health.
Wall is particularly interested in the social and clinical aspects of reproductive health problems in developing countries and has been actively involved in a variety of clinical projects in Ethiopia, Uganda, Nigeria, Ghana, and Niger.
At present he is working with the College of Health Sciences at Mekelle University in northern Ethiopia on a variety of clinical projects involving utero-vaginal prolapse, urinary incontinence, obstetric fistula, gestational trophoblastic disease, and other women’s health concerns. He is working with the university to improve residency training in obstetrics and gynecology, as well as to develop a multi-center collaborative fellowship training program in urogynecology and reconstructive pelvic surgery.
In addition to the clinical work with the College of Health Sciences, Wall is engaged in a large collaborative project to improve the lives of adolescent schoolgirls in Ethiopia. The Menstrual Dignity Project is a collaborative effort between Mekelle University, the Mariam Seba Sanitary Products Factory, and a St. Louis-based non-profit charity called Dignity Period. Menstruation is difficult to discuss in Ethiopia and many Ethiopian girls and women do not have access to satisfactory menstrual hygiene management. Approximately 85% of the population of Ethiopia lives in rural areas, and many girls are too poor even to afford underwear, much less commercially-produced disposable menstrual pads. As a result, many adolescent girls stay home from school three to five days each month, fall behind in their studies (or suffer devastatingly-embarrassing menstrual hygiene accidents while in school), and stop their education. In addition to carrying out detailed ethnographic research on menstrual beliefs, attitudes and practices in northern Ethiopia, The Menstrual Dignity Project will provide low-cost, re-usable, environmentally-friendly, locally-produced menstrual pads and underwear to the girls and women of Ethiopia, improving the quality of their lives while removing barriers to their education and social advancement.
Over thirty years of clinical experience as a practicing obstetrician-gynecologist has made me keenly aware of the lack of compassion that is often found in institutional healthcare settings. In search of a way to improve this situation, Wall completed training in 2013 as a Certified Compassion Cultivation Teacher in the inaugural cohort of instructors trained in compassion cultivation through the Stanford University School of Medicine’s Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education (CCARE). He has periodically taught an 8-week course in compassion cultivation and currently am preparing a course on “The Anthropology of Compassion.”
His current and long-term writing projects include completion of a book-length manuscript on historical, clinical and sociological aspects of obstetric fistula for Johns Hopkins University Press; an ethnographic, historical, and ethical study of the work of the controversial 19th Century gynecologist J. Marion Sims; and a book looking at the contemporary practice of medicine from the perspective of virtue ethics.