Three UVA Radiologists travel to Uganda to strengthen a flourishing radiology global health partnership. Thanks to modern technology, the partnership continues even when the UVA doctors come home.
Worlds Coming Together
Visiting a place with a different culture changes you. And like mental souvenirs, those changes come home with you. In September, doctors Jenni Pierce (faculty sponsor), Connor Louden (fourth year resident), and Jonathan Chahin (second year resident) returned to UVA after spending four weeks visiting Mbarara University of Science and Technology (MUST) in Uganda. MUST is UVA’s first radiology global health partner.
You may remember that Connor and Jenni visited MUST in December 2016. Well, a lot has changed in less than a year. Back then, there were only two radiology residents at MUST. Now, Martin, Yahya, and Divine have joined Kenneth and Prossy in the program. And the technological side of the partnership? MUST residents now Skype into UVA for weekly lectures delivered by the residents participating in the Spencer B. Gay Radiology Resident International Education Program and Global Health Leadership Track.
These lectures help take pressure off of Moses, the MUST Radiology faculty and sole attending physician. As the program in Mbarara continues to expand, UVA residents are taking on a larger teaching role–both when they go to Uganda and, now, via Skype.
A Successful Partnership
UVA Radiology’s goal is for the MUST radiology residency program to continue to grow. Jenni explained: “We want to continue serving them however we can. This is a global partnership with the goal of sustainability–it’s a relationship–so their success is ours and vice versa.” Already, the program has more than doubled in size, and UVA Radiology hopes to help MUST Radiology continue to grow and spread the value of radiology at their own institution.
Perhaps the most important factor in the program’s success is that the MUST residents are extremely bright and incredibly determined. Most have grown up in Mbarara. They have seen and responded to a need for radiologists in their city. In fact, they believe so strongly in what they do that they are willing to pay out of their own pocket to participate in MUST’s radiology residency program.
And they have chosen to stay and deal with limited resources rather than abandoning their community by going to accept radiology positions at larger hospitals elsewhere–such as the hospital in Kampala, the capital city.
A Two-Way Street
Resources are indeed limited at MUST. They have access to X-ray and ultrasound, but their CT is non-functioning without a service contract, and they have no MRI. What they lack in equipment, however, they make up for in enthusiasm for learning. Across the board, those who have gone from UVA to visit MUST come back impressed by the Ugandan residents and their hunger for knowledge in the field of Radiology.
The beauty of this truly global radiology partnership is that our UVA physicians don’t just share their knowledge and technology, they get to experience and learn incredible things from their Ugandan counterparts as well. “We never want to force our own agenda on them,” Jenni said. “This kind of program only works if there is mutual trust–if we are willing to discuss, support, and learn from them and their goals.”
The UVA Radiology Department has been one of the pioneers in the realm of radiology global health partnerships. After three years now, this partnership with MUST has turned into a friendship that transcends oceans. And good friendships are always two-way.
So what have our physicians learned from their time in Uganda, and how does it affect the way they view medicine here in the US?
“The MUST residents are so thankful for what they have there. They have taught me a lot about gratitude and not taking resources for granted here,” said Ally Baheti, one of the Spencer B. Gay Program residents at UVA.
“On the ground in Mbarara, we got to learn by seeing some classic cases firsthand,” Connor said. “Cases that have largely been prevented in America. Cases related to HIV or tuberculosis, for instance. It’s one thing to see these in a textbook. To see it in person, though… it’s a valuable experience.”
But Connor also talked about how these trips have affected his whole mindset in medicine. “We had to think on our feet and work with a lot fewer resources there. Now, as a mental exercise, I’ll ask myself, ‘If I didn’t have this CT right now, what would I do?’ It helps keep me sharp.”
Thankfully, we do have CT here. In fact, the imaging technology at UVA is some of the very best in existence. But without our world-class physicians and expert technologists, none of the machinery would do any good. It is the hands and minds operating the technology that truly matter. We are thrilled that our residents and faculty are so passionate about providing the best imaging that they are willing to travel across the world to help share that vision.
There is another UVA Radiology Global Health team–Jenni Pierce, Ally Baheti (fourth year resident), and Gabe Palmer (fourth year resident)–getting ready to travel to Mbarara in January 2018. The MUST Radiology Department is eager for these three to arrive. Look for an update in the new year after the team has returned!