The University of Wisconsin and Addis Ababa University in Ethiopia publicly launched their twinning project Wednesday, partnering to cooperatively confront the emergency medical services crisis in Ethiopia.
The partnership is facilitated by the Twinning Center, an organization that helps create relationships between institutions, and aims to improve the lives of people with HIV and AIDS.
According to Girma Tefera, associate professor of the UW department of surgery, the project is training four physicians and four nurse leaders this year to become the first emergency medicine faculty at Black Lion Hospital in Ethiopia, which works closely with Addis Ababa University.
“It’s a unique opportunity for the University of Wisconsin,” Tefera said.
He added the partnership is also working with People to People, an organization made of mostly health professionals and founded out of Ethiopia.
Donna Katen-Bahensky, president and CEO of the UW Hospital and Clinics, said the university has made a donation of $10,000 to the project.
According to Milliard Derbew, dean and medical faculty member at Addis Ababa University, the medical faculty at Addis Ababa was established in 1964 and now has 1,670 students enrolled in medical programs.
He said the university houses one of only eight medical programs in Ethiopia and it has recently increased its intake of medical students to meet the country’s growing needs.
“In Black Lion, we see 1,400 to 1,500 people a day. We’re trying our best with the limited resources we have.” Derbew said.
He went on to say the mission of the school’s research is not to establish scientific fulfillment, but rather wellness of the country.
Ethiopia has a projected population of 80 million, according to Derbew, and 84 percent of people live in rural areas. He said the country has a poor overall health status, with the life expectancy standing at 54 years.
He added young people make up almost half of the population, with 44 percent of people being under the age of 15.
Derbew’s proposed solution to the health crisis is to partner with universities like UW, as there are benefits for both sides.
He said the development of medicine is dependent on knowledge and one way to get knowledge is to work with others. For this reason, Addis Ababa University is currently working to establish partnerships with many universities.
He added he thinks the relationship with the UW will last a long time.
“The world is becoming very small,” Derbew said. “Whatever happens in Africa or Asia or anywhere will be a problem for the world.”
A daunting task lies ahead, but university leaders are willing to give it the best shot they can considering the drastic changes that are needed, Tefera said, adding he thinks they are off to a great start.