In July 1999, she opened the African Women's Health Practice within Brigham's ob/gyn department, the first U.S. clinic for African immigrant women. Although it took a while for patients to show up, three and a half years later, Nour sees 15 to 20 women a day. "They come from all over Massachusetts," says Layla Guled, a tall, radiant Somali and Arabic interpreter at the hospital. "Before this clinic, they would open their legs in trust and the doctors would be so shocked they'd say, 'Oh my God, what happened? Did you burn yourself?' How ignorant." Frustrated at trying to explain the culture and sensitize the doctors to these patients, Guled adds, "I almost quit twice."
Today Nour spends hours talking with newly married African couples, explaining the 20-minute surgery that can restore a normal vaginal opening, much to the relief of the wives. Other cases require more extensive healing.
Although Nour has a great tenderness for the Sudan of her childhood, she also feels an Americanness so profound it surprises her. Here, she's found the sophisticated training, the resources, and the freedom she needs to influence policy in developing nations where many still believe that circumcision makes a woman more beautiful; or that the clitoris is poisonous and touching it can make a man impotent.