In 2015 an international group of rheumatologists visited Addis Ababa to provide a series of lectures (continuing medical education to physicians). On that visit, they observed an extreme need to improve access to rheumatology care. In 2016 they formed Rheumatology for All (RFA). Here we share our progress.
Why is our work so important?
Rheumatic and musculoskeletal disorders (RMDs) are among the greatest contributors to physical disability worldwide. While mechanical arthritis and low back pain contribute the most to global disability, inflammatory and autoimmune rheumatic conditions can affect individuals during their prime working and child raising years leading to significant impact to families and society. The management of RMDs is often complex and requires rheumatology guidance. Ethiopia, one of the most populous countries in Africa, has no practicing rheumatologist. The only public rheumatology clinic in Ethiopia is in Tikur Anbessa Speciality Hospital in Addis Ababa. Rheumatology care is provided by internists with limited expertise and training in rheumatology.
Birhanu Demelash Desyibele below and Becky Abdissa Adugna are two Ethiopian physicians recruited by RFA. In January 2019, they arrived in Durban, South Africa to begin a two-year fellowship in rheumatology. On their return to Ethiopia, they will have jobs waiting for them at Tikur Anbessa Specialty Hospital, one of the major teaching hospitals in Ethiopia.
They will be the first two rheumatologists in Ethiopia and be able to care for patients and establish a teaching program for doctors and healthcare professionals. Eventually, with assistance from Rheumatology for All, they will develop a rheumatology fellowship with the capacity to train physicians to become rheumatologists. Above is a photograph of Birhanu and Becky attending the South African Arthritis and Rheumatism Association Meeting in March 2019
We were lucky enough to attend the SARRA Congress in Durban.
There were speakers from all over the world and it was amazing and inspirational. I feel so lucky to get the opportunity for rheumatology training. It is so fascinating to learn about what the especially is able to do with biologics and the direction of targeted therapy.
-Birhanu Demelash Desyibele
Visiting Professor Program:
Rheumatology for All has adapted existing models for providing specialty education in Ethiopia. This program involves engaging international faculty to supplement local education needs. Carol Hitchon, MD and Michele Meltzer, MD, academic rheumatologists, will inaugurate the program in April 2019. A detailed curriculum has been developed that includes multiple teaching modalities. We plan to have volunteer rheumatologists return several times a year. We have been pleased by the number of rheumatologists who have expressed interest in participating in our program.
Trainees will be Internal Medicine residents in their second year of residency and will be selected by the Internal Medicine Program. There is currently no formal rheumatology education program in Ethiopia. The second-year residents can teach the first-year medical residents. The program is intended to bridge the existing gap in rheumatology education in Ethiopia until Birhanu and Becky return from their fellowship.
Rheumatology for All’s mission is to increase access to rheumatology in under-resourced regions. Our aim is to create self-sustaining rheumatology training programs by funding the education of local physicians to become rheumatologists and providing educational programs for local physicians.