TWO BIG DEVELOPMENTS WE ARE PROUD OF:
1.Thanks to Rheumatology for All rheumatology has been recognized for the first time as a medical specialty in Ethiopia.
2. Due to necessity forced by Covid 19 we developed a virtual visiting professor program. This will allow us to continue our work unimpeded.
Because of this government recognition, one of our former trainees, Birhanu Desyibelew, has been asked to be an expert on musculoskeletal disorder guidelines (diagnosis and treatment) in a general internal medicine book.
Like so many organizations, Rheumatology for All (RFA), had to reinvent itself because of the pandemic. Our visiting professors had their bags packed and were ready to go to Rwanda the day before the United States and Canada closed their borders. After much thought, we decided to develop a virtual visiting professor program. Since we already had a team in Ethiopia, it seemed logical to pilot our program there. Our team included Birhanu Desyibelew, who RFA sponsored for a fellowship program in rheumatology. He had just returned to Ethiopia from training program in South Africa. Melaku Taye, one of the residents who participated in the visiting professor program in April 2019, kindly agreed to organize the program locally. Five second-year medical residents were chosen to participate in the program and six visiting professors volunteered. (this included Becky Abdissa Adugna, who is completing his fellowship in rheumatology in South Africa). We used a learning platform that allowed us to save recordings of our lectures and learning materials. Daily, one of the visiting professors engaged in live discussions with the residents. Birhanu and one of our volunteers (virtually) was present for the biweekly rheumatology clinics.
The program was very well received. After two weeks, Melaku sent this note:
All the residents are so grateful for making the attachment (that they were initially worried about disliking it) an enjoyable subject that has become an exciting class to show up to.
Thank you so much for being so passionate in creating such a virtual teaching platform. The knowledge you transferred to these residents will be translated in improving the management of hundreds of Ethiopian patients with rheum conditions. Besides, we are all learning the hidden curriculum of diligence to teach and genuine caring for patients beyond what your regular job requires.
And one of the residents, Materwal Bekay wrote,
Thank you very much doctor for your time. This month was one of my best months. It inspired me to know more about rheumatology and reminds me listening to my patients is always a key .hopefully I will join you in the future with the field of rheumatology. We will try to create awareness among our patients. thank you very much
A major problem in Ethiopia and other African countries is limited medical literacy. Each medical resident was required to create a one-page information sheet in Amharic (the language spoken in Addis Ababa). These learning tools will be available to the patients in the rheumatology clinic. As we expand the visiting professor program, the residents will publish more information on the diseases we treat, and the medications used for treatment. It is easy to imagine how frightening it can be to have a disease and know nothing about the disease or treatment.
Becky will return to Ethiopia early 2021. This will mean Ethiopia, a country of 110 million people, will now have two fellowship-trained rheumatologists. The visiting professor program has served to augment their reach. There is still so much to do, Ethiopia and so many underserved areas suffer because people do not have access to rheumatology care. We need your support.