Royal College supports Queen’s University project in Ethiopia (plus, a call for volunteers)

Royal College Staff
November 13, 2019 | Author: Royal College Staff

In this Q&A, Richard Reznick, MD, FRCSC, dean of the Faculty of Health Sciences at Queen’s University, shares how he started a project in Ethiopia to support residency training.

How did you become involved in the Ethiopia project?

It started about four years ago, when I received an email from a physician-administrator at Haramaya University in Ethiopia seeking a collaboration. The challenge they faced at the time — and are still facing — is a thousand-bed hospital they are developing with currently only 20 specialists on their medical staff. Consequently, there is the great need of developing new training programs.

After a series of what seemed to be several introductory calls, I said to myself “I just need to go there.” I assembled a small team from Queen’s University. I reached out to the Royal College to see if they would be interested in partnering with us on the initiative. I was then introduced to Dr. Karim Qayumi, a regional director for Royal College International (RCI), who expressed excitement about the possibility of being involved. Since then, we’ve been working together on the project. Our first visit to Ethiopia was in February 2018.

Tell me about your first trip to Ethiopia.

We visited the new Haramaya University Hospital. It’s not up and running yet; the infrastructure is built, however it is not outfitted yet. They have several residency training programs in place in General Surgery, Obstetrics, Internal Medicine and Pediatrics; however, they identified three areas of focus in particular that require attention: Oncology, Anesthesiology and Emergency Medicine.

When we came back to Canada, I engaged our three departments in those disciplines at Queen’s University to gauge their interest in supporting the initiative. To my great pleasure, all three departments were both willing and enthusiastic.

You had a follow-up trip to Ethiopia in February 2019. Describe what the trip entailed.

It was a much larger delegation, as representatives from all three departments at Queen’s University participated and attended, in addition to the original group from the first trip. What became clear is that our partners at Haramaya University are all very excited about the work at hand and about our partnership. They are also very earnest in their desire to collaborate with Queen’s University and the Royal College. What also became clear is that while Haramaya University is keen to work on their focused areas, they currently don’t have strong departmental structures in these areas to support the emergence of these three specialty disciplines.

Group photo with the Haramaya University, Queen’s University and RCI delegation (February 2019)

Group photo with the Haramaya University, Queen’s University and RCI delegation (February 2019)

What is the next step?

We are planning a third trip, which will occur in March 2020. We are working towards signing a memorandum of understanding to support the development of Haramaya University’s Oncology, Anesthesiology and Emergency Medicine departments and residency programs. We are branding the initiative as the Queen’s-Royal College-Haramaya Collaboration. While the exact plans for the establishment of the three departments and training programs will look different for the three disciplines, the basic model will see teams of specialists — hopefully from across Canada — coming to Ethiopia for a period of time, several times a year, to work hand-in-hand with faculty from Haramaya. Excitingly, there are six new faculty members starting in Haramaya, having just graduated from specialty training in Addis Ababa: two in each of the three disciplines.

What will success look like as the collaboration continues?

There are four milestones that we are working towards. The first is the arrival and launch of the careers of the six recently graduated specialists; the second is formally setting up the three departments; the third is the development of the three training programs; and the fourth is accepting the inaugural group of residents into the programs.

Success will be measured by graduating qualified specialists. The improved functioning of the three departments (and, eventually, programs) will go hand-in-hand. Ultimately, success will be a system that is sustainable, whereby Haramaya University will have the opportunity to graduate residents in these disciplines to support their hospital.

Are you looking for volunteers (Royal College Fellows) to join your team in Ethiopia?

Yes, absolutely. We will be calling for volunteers later this year or early 2020. We are specifically looking for qualified anesthetists, oncologists (both medical and radiation) and Emergency Medicine practitioners who are interested, and in a position to dedicate time to working in Ethiopia.

If you are interested in volunteering, please contact

The Queen’s-Royal College-Haramaya project is partly supported by International Development, Aid and Collaboration (IDAC). IDAC is a new program facilitated by RCI for Royal College Fellows seeking funding support to improve health profession education and local capacity in low- and middle-income countries. A call for applications was issued in October. Fellows are invited to apply for funding by November 30, 2019.

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