Laura E. Stachel, M.D., M.P.H. – WOMAN of ACTION™



A Celebration of Women™

is elated to Celebrate the Life of this woman leader, a visionary that realized in the developing world, mortality rates for expectant mothers total over 300,000 deaths each year. Taking Action in her life, this woman forged ahead to find a solution to this maternal health challenge….bettering the lives of thousands of women.




Laura E. Stachel

Laura E. Stachel, M.D., M.P.H. the co-founder and medical director of WE CARE Solar, is a board-certified obstetrician-gynecologist with fourteen years of clinical experience, holding an M.D. from University of California, San Francisco and an M.P.H. in Maternal and Child Health from University of California, Berkeley. She is a DrPH candidate at UCB; her dissertation centers on emergency obstetric care in Nigeria.

Co-founder Dr. Laura Stachel went to Northern Nigeria in 2008 to study ways to lower maternal mortality in state hositals. She witnessed deplorable conditions in state facilities including sporadic electricity that impaired maternity and surgical care. Without a reliable source of electricity, nighttime deliveries were attended in near darkness, cesarean sections were cancelled or conducted by flashlight, and critically ill patients waited hours or days for life-saving procedures. The outcomes were often tragic.

Laura wrote to her husband, Hal Aronson, a solar energy educator back in Berkeley, California. Together, Laura and Hal co-founded WE CARE Solar to improve maternal health outcomes in regions without reliable electricity. Hal designed an off-grid solar electric system for the hospital Laura was studying, targeting the maternity ward, labor room, laboratory and operating theatre.

Hal Aronson and Laura Stachel

A Portable Solution

laura s libr-partnerHal created a suitcase-sized prototype of the hospital solar electric system so Laura could show Nigerian hospital workers the LED lights, headlamps and walkie-talkies planned for deployment. When Laura returned to Nigeria toting the “solar suitcase,” her Nigerian colleagues immediately grasped its significance and began using this kit to charge headlamps and walkie-talkies while they awaited the larger solar installation. In addition, hospital employees introduced Laura to clinicians in outlying health facilities who begged her to bring solar lighting to their own clinics, too.

laura solar suitcaseThe WE CARE Solar Suitcase is a brilliant new device that aims to reduce this figure by providing hospitals in off-grid areas with access to a steady source of energy and light. Designed by Dr. Laura Stachel and her husband Hal Aronson, the system includes high-efficiency LED lights, a universal cellphone charger, 12V DC outlets, a set of 40 or 80 watt solar panels, and a 12 amp-hour sealed lead-acid battery. Read more: WE CARE Solar Suitcase Saves Mothers’ and Babies’ Lives by Providing a Vital Light Source During Childbirth.

Momentum Grows

WE CARE initially assembled Solar Suitcases for midwives in northern Nigerian maternal health clinics. As word of our innovative power solution spread, we received requests from clinics and health workers around the world, including medical relief teams in Haiti after the 2010 earthquake. We first relied on students and volunteers to help us assemble and deliver Solar Suitcases. As demand increased, we realized we needed formal mechanisms to reach scale.

The Blum Center for Developing Economies and The MacArthur Foundation supported our technology research, our educational programs, and our field studies in Northern Nigeria. World Health Organization invited us to partner with the Liberian Institute for Biomedical Research in bringing 20 Solar Suitcases to primary health care clinics in Liberia. Together, these projects are helping us to improve our suitcase design and gain important feedback about the power of our Solar Suitcases to transform health systems.

In 2011, We Care Solar began utilizing a local contract manufacturer to assemble Solar Suitcases. Approximately 300 Solar Suitcases have been assembled and sent to 25 countries around the world, and plans are underway to significantly expand our regional programs in Sierra Leone, Uganda, and Malawi.

Stachel_Laura_1Laura is the Associate Director of Emergency Obstetric Research in West Africa for the Bixby Center for Population Health and Sustainability. She is leading a MacArthur Foundation project on We Care Solar Suitcase usage in Nigeria and Uganda, and was co-investigator for a collaborative Population Council study that assessed the standard of maternity care in Nigerian state hospitals.

Laura serves on the Editorial Board for the Berkeley Wellness Letter, co-chairs a international working group on Energy and Health for the UN Foundation, and lectures at the UCB School of Public Health.

Published on Nov 8, 2012
In 2008, Dr. Laura Stachel went to Nigeria to find out why so many women were dying there during childbirth. She was flabbergasted to discover that in many areas, women were giving birth without electricity — sometimes in near total darkness. Doctors and midwives often helped delivered babies with only a cell phone or lantern for light. With her husband, a solar expert, she devised a way to bring light to clinics in Nigeria and other Third World countries. They did this by creating a solar kit that could fit inside a suitcase. It was small enough to sneak past customs and big enough to power 2 bright lights, as well as medical equipment. The solar suitcase has had instant and powerful results in clinics around the world. Stachel’s organization, WE CARE Solar, has distributed solar suitcases to 20 different countries, including Haiti, Afghanistan and Liberia.



Laura Stachel | LinkedIn

E-mail: laura_ at _


A Celebration of Women™

welcomes this woman into our global alumni with open arms, celebrating the vision of future collaborations in achieving an end on this planet of all void endured through the darkness of lacking medical conditions in Maternal Healthcare; bettering the lives of all women.


Brava Laura!



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