Ethiopia has one doctor for every 40,000 people. The United States has one doctor for every 400 people.
The disparity weighed on Dr. Girma Tefera, a UW Hospital surgeon, when he visited his homeland in 2002 after being gone for 14 years.
“I was struck by how much the hospitals were understaffed,” he said.
Working with colleagues from UW Hospital and other Ethiopian doctors living in the U.S., Tefera set up Ethiopia’s first emergency medicine residency in 2009, at Black Lion Hospital in Addis Ababa.
Hospitals in Ethiopia have emergency rooms but didn’t have doctors specializing in emergency medicine. Other doctors were called in, which could cause delays, Tefera said.
Through Tefera’s program, funded by a U.S. grant to improve HIV/AIDS care overseas, doctors from Ethiopia came to Madison to learn how to treat traumas, heart attacks and other emergencies. UW Hospital doctors went to Ethiopia to teach life support and first aid.
Now, four Ethiopian doctors trained through the program are teaching other doctors and nurses how to specialize in emergency medicine.
The model is being expanded to family medicine. Dr. Cindy Haq, until recently director of UW-Madison’s Center for Global Health, is leading an effort at the university to train Ethiopian doctors to practice primary care for families.
Mulusew Yayehyirada, a St. Mary’s Hospital nurse from Ethiopia, also is helping her homeland. She started a nonprofit, Clinic at a Time, that delivers medical supplies and works to improve clinics in the northwest part of the country.