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WCH physicians collaborate with the first family doctors and medical educators in Ethiopia

July 10, 2017

By Lindsay Jolivet

Doctors at Women’s College Hospital (WCH) are helping their international peers introduce family medicine to Ethiopia.

There is a shortage of doctors in Ethiopia, where the discipline of family medicine is still new. In 2013, the country established its first family medicine program with the support of the Toronto Addis Ababa Academic Collaboration (TAAAC). TAAAC is a partnership between the University of Toronto and Addis Ababa University to strengthen capacity in many fields, including medicine. Faculty members from Toronto teach and collaborate with Ethiopian colleagues to develop academic programs in Ethiopia.

Dr. Praseedha Janakiram, a physician at the WCH Crossroads Clinic, joined the collaboration in 2013 just after the family medicine residency at Addis Ababa University launched. Dr. Janakiram, who is also an assistant professor at the University of Toronto, was invited to travel to Ethiopia and work with the first family medicine residents in the country by Dr. Jane Philpott, the federal minister of health, who was then chief of family medicine at Markham Stouffville Hospital. Since then, the first seven family doctors in Ethiopia have graduated.

“They are truly pioneers in their field as they navigate the landscape of introducing family medicine to Ethiopia,” Dr. Janakiram says.

This year, Dr. Sheila Dunn made her first visit to Ethiopia for one month as part of the collaboration. A scientist at Women’s College Research Institute (WCRI), director of research at the WCH Family Practice Health Centre, and an associate professor at the University of Toronto, Dr. Dunn consulted with residents on their research projects, provided clinical supervision and taught women’s health procedures to family medicine residents.

“I was inspired by the residents’ dedication to research to improve health outcomes in Ethiopia, and I worked one-on-one with many of them on their ideas,” Dr. Dunn said.

Establishing a Master of Health Sciences Education program

Dr. Cynthia Whitehead, the vice-president of education at WCH and an associate professor at the University of Toronto, joined TAAAC in 2015 when the collaboration helped establish a new Master of Health Sciences Education program at Addis Ababa University. As a faculty mentor and tutor, she has made four trips to the university to teach an intensive module and serve as a thesis examiner for the inaugural class of 15 students.

“WCH's history of supporting equity and marginalized populations make us a great partner,” Dr. Whitehead says. “It is an honor to be involved in such important work, with colleagues who are committed to providing high quality care in a low resource setting.”


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