Pediatrics expands partnerships in Ethiopia with new MOU, increased exchanges

With a growing number of scholarly exchanges, planned training programs and a new formal agreement, collaborations between the Pediatrics departments at Michigan Medicine and Ethiopia’s St. Paul’s Hospital are rapidly expanding.

UMMS Clinical Assistant Professor of Pediatrics Shane Quinonez on a recent visit to St. Paul's with two department genetic counselors, Michelle Jacobs and Bridget O'Connor.

This summer, Pediatrics became the latest Michigan Medicine Department to formalize cooperation with St. Paul’s Hospital Millennium Medical College through a departmental Memorandum of Understanding. The three-year agreement identifies joint research, student and faculty exchange, and potential joint symposia and conference as opportunities for immediate collaboration.

“My hope is that this partnership will lead to new and lasting relationships, and improved approaches to care for St. Paul’s and for us here at Mott,” said Pediatric Chair Donna Martin, MD. “Through exchanges like this, we all have opportunities to learn and grow together.  I am tremendously proud of everyone who has reached out to connect our institutions.”

Pediatrics joins a growing number of departments like Ophthalmology and Transplant Surgery that are building relationships with counterparts at St. Paul’s. The Addis Ababa hospital and medical school continues to be a major hub for Michigan Medicine-Ethiopia partnerships. Many members of the Michigan Medicine Pediatrics team from many different areas and specialties have traveled to St. Paul’s to lecture faculty and fellows there and explore possible future collaboration, including assisting St. Paul’s with post-doctoral training programs in pediatrics.

The department has been working to get post-graduate learners involved as well. Pediatrics Chief Resident Kayla Bronder spent a month at St. Paul’s last fall, the first resident to make the trip. She spent time in St. Paul’s Emergency Room, Neonatal ICU, and Pediatrics ICU.

“I really appreciated how good the Ethiopian doctors were. They could run circles around me, taking care of patients 24/7 with no breaks and very limited resources,” Bronder said. “I learned so much and ultimately reminded me why I went into Pediatrics in the first place. It was a really wonderful experience.”

More recently, the Michigan Medicine Pediatrics department welcomed Atnafu Mekonnen, MD, a pediatric cardiology fellow from St. Paul’s. He spent the month of March in Ann Arbor learning electrophysiology and echocardiograph techniques, as well as studying images in the department’s echocardiography unit alongside Michigan Medicine colleagues like Assistant Professor of Pediatric Cardiology Thor Thorsson.

“It’s been a great experience. I feel I gained a lot of knowledge in a very short time, thanks to people like Dr. Thorsson who understand exactly what I need and are so willing to share their skills,” Mekonnen said. “For us, coming here is beneficial. While we don’t all have the same systems you have, being exposed to the facility and techniques is important to help us understand ways we can improve.”

At least four members of the Pediatrics Department have plans to visit St. Paul’s before the end of year and a fellow from St. Paul’s is expected to visit Michigan Medicine early next year. The exchanges cross a number of specialties said Clinical Assistant Professor Shane Quinonez; his own project involves expanding genetic counseling services in Ethiopia, but Quinonez has also worked to build collaborations with St. Paul’s across the department.

“More junior faculty come to us actively seeking experiences in global health,” he said. “It can be hard to create something new on your own, so for us as a department to have these relationships across disciplines and specialties to tap into is a great thing, both from a recruitment standpoint and an academic standpoint.”