It was an honor to have been selected as the ASNR Outreach Professor to Ethiopia this year. It gave me the opportunity to share knowledge I’ve gained over my years of practicing pediatric neuroradiology. It also gave me the opportunity to meet lovely colleagues, make new friends, and experience what I can only describe as a cultural explosion.
I spent two weeks in Ethiopia and taught at the Radiology Department in the College of Health Sciences of Addis Ababa University at the Black Lion Hospital. This is an 800-bed teaching hospital where the most severe and complex cases of Ethiopia’s 85 million populace are referred. Dr. Tesfaye Kebede is the Chair of Radiology and Dr. Tequam Debebe is Head of the Neuroradiology Division there. The radiology department currently has 2 CT scanners and a relatively new 1.5T MRI scanner. Unfortunately, one of the CT scanners and the MRI scanner were not operational when I was there, leaving only one CT to service the entire hospital. I became aware that one of the biggest issues countries like Ethiopia face is affordable and reliable service agreements to keep the equipment they purchased working.
Each morning my gracious hosts would ensure that I arrived and left the hospital safely. The attendings, fellows, and I would gather before the start of the workday in a room where we shared delicious traditional treats and drank the best coffee I have ever tasted. Some mornings I started off with a lecture, others I spent in the reading room with the residents where they would save the interesting pediatric neuroradiology cases for me to review with them. I was astonished by the degree of advanced disease I encountered. Tuberculosis that mimicked a diffuse infiltrating brainstem glioma or looked like a brain overgrowth syndrome! I quickly learned that putting TB first in my differential was a winning strategy. I would finish each day with resident lectures that included imaging of pediatric head trauma, epilepsy, inborn errors of metabolism, leukodystrophies, posterior fossa tumors, demyelinating disorders, stroke, spinal cord tumors, and myelopathies. I also had the opportunity to administer the neuroradiology fellowship examination on behalf of Emory University to the department’s two neuroradiology fellows. The knowledge and diagnostic acumen of the fellows was impressive and on par with the most rigorous neuroradiology fellowship programs. The residents were attentive, excited to learn and always had good questions.
On the weekends I had the opportunity to travel to northern Ethiopia and visit the magnificent monolithic rock hewn churches of Lalibela and then to the southern Omo Valley where I witnessed fascinating African tribal life. I ate my favorite injera almost every day, took a pass on the raw meat (but aspire to one day partake in this delicacy with my Ethiopian friends) and drank lots of coffee. Ethiopia is an amazing country and I’m grateful to have been given the opportunity to experience it and its people in such an authentic way thanks to the Anne G. Osborn ASNR International Outreach Professor Program. This is an opportunity to teach and learn that should not be missed.
Susan Palasis, MD
Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta