Strengthening Our Residency Partnership in Ethiopia

Scott Lawrence, MD, with Christine Nelson, MD
Scott Lawrence, MD, with Christine Nelson, MD

The fledgling ophthalmology residency program at Ethiopia’s St. Paul Hospital Millennium Medical College (SPHMMC) is growing in size and scope.

In 2015, Kellogg ophthalmology joined a growing number of U-M Medical School departments committed to establishing long term in-country training partnerships with SPHMMC in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

U-M Adjunct Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Senait Fisseha, MD, JD, a native Ethiopian, has served as a catalyst for many of these initiatives. Her vision of applying a train-the-trainer approach to move toward self-sufficiency in education resonated with leadership at the Kellogg Eye Center for International Ophthalmology (KECIO). 

“Brain drain is a huge challenge in Ethiopia,” says Christine Nelson, MD, Professor of Ophthalmology and KEICO co-director. “They’ve had training programs in the past, but people would come to the States for training and then never return.” The program hopes to change that.

Thanks to the commitment and persistence of numerous Kellogg colleagues, the ophthalmology residency program established at SPHMMC has grown to 23 residents and ten faculty members. The next phase in the program’s evolution: focus on training in sub-specialties. Kellogg faculty specializing in oculoplastic surgery, pediatric ophthalmology, retinal surgery and ocular ultrasound have all traveled to St. Paul’s to mentor the faculty and residents there, laying the groundwork for a comprehensive residency program.

A major step in that direction came this past year, when Scott Lawrence, MD, was recruited to be Kellogg’s man on the ground at St. Paul’s. Dr. Lawrence, a glaucoma specialist, has lived and practiced in Ethiopia for more than three years. A Clinical Associate Professor at Kellogg, Dr. Lawrence previously directed an Association of University Professors of Ophthalmology certified glaucoma fellowship, and coordinated advanced training in cataract and glaucoma surgery. “Scott has already made an enormous contribution to the program,” says Dr. Nelson. “We’re so fortunate to have him on the team.”

The pace of progress at St. Paul’s is not lost on Dr. Nelson. “The first time I visited, I operated by the flashlight on my phone during a power outage,” she recalls. “Now, we’re ready to graduate the first class of residents. In a short time, we’ve come a long way together.”