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Westcountry students with their African hosts

From Cornwall to Ethiopia: Medical school link enhances knowledge

Students and staff have returned from the first of a series of six trips to Ethiopia, in a scheme designed to share knowledge and experience.

Four Medical students and two postgraduates were among a team of ten to visit Wollega Medical School. There, the Cornwall-based students had the opportunity to teach their Ethiopian counterparts, as the team worked towards supporting local staff to set up a sustainable learning programme.

The trip was led by Dr Julie Thacker, Clinical Sub Dean at the University of Exeter Medical School – one of four medical schools to form the Ethiopia Medical Education Partnership Project. Together with Queen Mary, University of London and Aksum Medical School, Ethiopia, they have been awarded £80,000 from the Tropical Health and Education Trust to continue the work.

Dr Thacker said: “We were overwhelmed by the friendly and cooperative reception we received from the University of Wollega faculty. Wollega is an inspiring and forward thinking educational institution and we are extremely excited at the prospect of working alongside them into the future. 

"Each year we will provide a training course for the Ethiopian doctors who teach medical undergraduates, a course on medical assessment and a national education conference. The money will also help to provide equipment for teachers and students in Ethiopia.”

The students involved in the trip were 3rd and 4th years from the Peninsula College of Medicine and Dentistry,  based in Truro. Timo Tolppa, one of the students who attended, said taking part was “extremely rewarding”.

He said: “Throughout our time in Ethiopia, we met several amazing and wonderful people that made us feel at home. We have formed lifelong friendships with many and hope to continue to learn from them and be inspired by their unwavering commitment to make a positive impact in their communities. Overall, this experience has not only improved our confidence with regards to teaching, but also widened our worldview and taught us a great deal about ourselves and about medicine. The effect this experience has had on us is indescribable. We are truly thankful for this opportunity and to everyone who contributed to organising this trip."=

The team also included Dr Ian Fussell, Community Sub Dean, Truro, Newquay GP Dr Nick Walker, Medical School staff Angela Lait, and teaching staff from the Royal Cornwall Hospital Trust, Dr Tom Brown and Dr Joe Collinson. The other students were Daniel Nash, Callie Simmonds and Annie Wood. The overall project is being led by Dr Rob Marshall, Consultant Pathologist and Academic Tutor at the University of Exeter Medical School.

Dr Eba Mijena, Academic Vice President, University of Wollega, Ethiopia, said: “The project we began together is a unique one where we learned a lot. It gave our staff and students high motivation. It is a true collaboration which has realized the concept of learning and growing together. I am really confident that we make practical differences in medical education and research through this collaboration. “

The visit strengthens the link between the Westcountry and Wollega. Last year, the Royal Cornwall Hospital Trust donated a rotary microtome, used in the diagnosis of disease, to the hospital. It was held up at customs for several weeks, but eventually made it to its destination.

The team will present their experiences at the medical education conference on Saturday 27th June at the RILD building, on Barrack Road, Exeter,  between 10am and 3pm.

Find out more about the project on the Exeter Wollega Link website.

Date: 19 June 2015

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