Program started by U-M now benefiting anesthesiology residents across Ethiopia

Michigan Medicine faculty have joined forces with two other US institutions to expand anesthesiology training in Ethiopia through live-streamed lectures.

Michigan Medicine anesthesiolgist Virginia Gauger (back row, center) during a recent trip to St. Paul's Ethiopia. Gauger helped launch a weekly remote lecture series for St. Paul's anesthesiology residents that, thanks to collaborations with the University of Virginia and Emory medical schools, has since expanded to reach post-doctoral anesthesiology training programs beyond St. Paul's.

Since 2016, Assistant Professor of Anesthesiology Virginia Gauger has made several visits to UMMS partner school St. Paul’s Hospital Millennium Medical College, in Addis Ababa, to help leaders there shape a newly launched anesthesiology residency program. After a few years of consulting on program structure and giving in-person lectures during her semi-annual visits, Gauger sought a better way to stay involved and in touch.

“The country recognizes the need for anesthesiology training and there’s definitely been progress in the past two years,” said Gauger, MD. “The videoconference lectures were a way to fill in a gap, given that we’re not able to be there in person all the time.”

In early 2017, Gauger launched an online lecture series for the 15 residents at St. Paul’s using BlueJeans videoconference software to stream weekly lectures from Ann Arbor in real time. She learned of telehealth efforts underway between anesthesiology faculty at the University of Virginia and their Ethiopian collaborators at Jimma University, one of just two other Ethiopian institutions offering an anesthesiology residency program. Work on an expanded, collaborative lecture series began.

Within a year, that project grew to include colleagues at Emory University, who have anesthesiology collaborations with Black Lion Hospital, in Addis Ababa, the only other Ethiopian institution currently offering post-doctoral anesthesiology training. Since spring 2018, Michigan Medicine faculty have shared the weekly presentation duties with colleagues from UVA and Emory. The lectures, which occur on Wednesdays (early-morning Eastern Time to coincide with the early afternoon in Ethiopia) are available to every anesthesiology resident in the country.

“I’m grateful not only to my Michigan anesthesiology colleagues who’ve shared their time and expertise in this project, but also for our counterparts in Georgia and Virginia,” said Gauger. “Their involvement not only expands the impact across more institutions, but also helps make the overall content more enriching for the residents. I think it’s been a good model for multi-institutional collaboration.”

Spearheading the University of Virginia’s participation has been UVA Associate Professor of Anesthesiology and Pediatrics George Politis, who has longstanding partnerships at Jimma, 100 or so miles southwest of Addis Ababa. For some of the presenters at UVA, the project has been a meaningful way to engage or re-engage in global health, he said.

“While some of our volunteer presenters have demonstrated previous interest in global health, others have been faculty that to my knowledge have not worked abroad, and I have been thrilled to see them engaged,” he said.

Many of Gauger's colleagues from Michigan Medicine’s anesthesiology department are involved as well. Lecturer Lauren Richey has traveled three times to St. Paul's and was instrumental in developing the lecture series content, which follows a curriculum typical of what US anesthesiology residents experience. Second-year resident Emily Miner uses pre- and post-lecture surveys among the Ethiopian residents to monitor usage and assess effectiveness. 

“The goal has always been to help our partners be able to consistently provide safe, quality anesthetic care to their people,” said Gauger. “The doctors there are extremely capable. They just need some assistance, so this feels like an accomplishment because you’re definitely making a difference and they are grateful for the help.”