The Addis Ababa University Department of Internal Medicine established a Neurology Unit in 1973 under the direction of Swiss Professor F. Jenik for the purpose of teaching medical students and internal medicine residents. The first Ethiopian neurologist Dr. Redda Tekle Haimanot joined the Neurology Unit in 1980 after completion of training at McGill University in Montreal, Canada. He was instrumental in promoting training, service and research in the field of neurology. Another McGill University trained neurologist Dr. Guta Zenebe, current Head of the Department, enlisted a handful of national and international neurologists to administer the postgraduate neurology residency training program.
This program commenced in January 2006, and is unquestionably successful despite the limited resources, community burdens, and day to day adversity encountered in a sub-Saharan African country with overwhelming social disturbances, inexorable political strife, and severe financial constraints.
The details of this program including administration, methodology and strategic plans are reviewed in Dr. Johnston’s Grand Rounds lecture at the University of Washington on 17 January 2013.
It remains the only neurology training centre in the Horn of Africa, home to over 100 million people. This program is generating sustainable benefits including:
- 19 neurology graduates since inception of the program, quadrupling the number of neurologists in Ethiopia (6 to 25)
- These neurologists have quadrupled the number of patients treated in public clinics (2,500 to over 12,000 annually)
- Neurologists are now available to provide full time teaching for the next generation of Ethiopian physicians
- Neurologists have commenced neurology centres beyond Addis Ababa in the rural towns of Gondar, Hawassa, Nazareth, Bahir Dar, and Jimma.
- Internal medicine and general practice residents rotate on the neurology service, and there are neurology residents or applicants from Kenya, Rwanda and Somalia.
- The Department provides international training, and has accepted neurology residents from University of Geneva, University of London, Harvard University, Mayo Clinic and Temple University.
This program has the potential to save countless lives but is at a plateau, severely constrained by the lack of funding, shortage of neurologists and dearth of resources.
Today, there is only one neurologist for every 4-5 million people. These neurologists are practicing in appalling conditions. Without pediatric neurology, neuroradiology, neuropathology or neurorehabilitation support. Educational resources are severely limited. There are eight EEG machines and three EMG machines for 92 million people. Basic drugs and supplies remain unavailable.
These neurologists are doing great work, but they desperately need help. The success of this program represents Ethiopia’s only chance to address the catastrophic burden of neurological disease.
Now is the time to act – please join us, by donating, fundraising or volunteering. We need your support.