Dr. James C. Johnston is a neurologist and attorney with a private consulting practice, and a partner in Global Neurology Consultants. He serves as an honorary Professor with the Addis Ababa University Department of Neurology.
Dr. Johnston established Global NeuroCare® as a non-profit organization to advance patient care, physician training and medical research in developing nations.
Dr. Johnston volunteered to evaluate the healthcare system in Ethiopia almost thirteen years ago . . . It would be the first of many visits, a turning point in his long-standing practice of neurology.
The local neurologists, spearheaded by Dr. Guta, and with modest international support, created a model residency program to train neurologists.
This program is unquestionably successful with ten sequential years of graduates – 36 neurologists have completed training, and there are 25 physicians in the 3 year training program. These neurologists are treating tens of thousands of patients. More importantly, they are teaching at the medical schools in Ethiopia so that the next generation of doctors will have basic training in the management of common neurological disorders such as epilepsy, stroke, dementia, neuropathy and headache. This type of capacity building is the most effective way to combat the growing burden of disease in sub-Saharan Africa.
But this is only the beginning. There remains a critical shortage of neurologists – thousands of patients, many with disorders that can be treated or prevented, never have the chance to see a specialist. According to the World Health Organization recommendations of 1-5 neurologists for every 100,000 people, Ethiopia needs at least 900 – 4500 more neurologists. This program is further constrained by a virtual absence of resources – eight antiquated EEG machines and three EMG machines for 105 million people. There are no funds to purchase diagnostic equipment, subscribe to medical journals, or send physicians for subspecialty training.