Situated in the Horn of Africa and home to nearly 92 million people, Ethiopia has the dubious distinction of being the world’s most populous landlocked country.
Despite its sizeable population, Ethiopia has a problem producing surgeons. Some estimate that there are only about 300 surgeons in the county, most of whom are concentrated in the capital city of Addis Ababa. For comparison, there are 167 surgeons on faculty at Emory University alone. The shortage means there’s roughly one surgeon per 310,000 Ethiopians. In the United States, the ratio is closer to one surgeon per 2,300 people.
Timothy Love, MD, MPH 13PH, a fourth year resident in general surgery and the inaugural recipient of the GO-TRAVEL (Global Outreach Traveling Resident Award to Visit, Experience and Learn) award, is preparing to face this challenge head on. With the help of GO-TRAVEL funding, Dr. Love plans to spend six weeks in Ethiopia this fall completing a clinical rotation in surgery.
Dr. Love is no stranger to Ethiopia. He first visited the country more than ten years ago while working on an HIV/AIDS research project as an undergraduate. It was there he met his wife Laura, an American social work student, who was working on the same project. He returned several times, once as an NIH Fogarty Global Health Fellow, and he and his wife hope to live and practice in Ethiopia full time when his training is complete. “Ethiopia is where we feel called to,” said Dr. Love.
GO-TRAVEL was conceived and funded by the Emory University School of Medicine Alumni Board. It was created to support resident education and to provide unique international training experiences. Residents are Emory alumni and this award is one way to remind them “they are part of the family,” said Ruthy Cunningham, Assistant Director of Alumni Programs at the SOM.
GO-TRAVEL offers the opportunity to examine the practice of medicine from a truly global perspective. Fellows will get the chance “to experience disease processes you simply do not see in the United States,” according to Farzad R. Nahai, MD 92C 96M 01MR, President of the Alumni Board. Dr. Love’s experiences in Ethiopia concur. Since the majority of Ethiopians live in rural areas isolated by mountainous terrain, they are often not seen by a doctor until their symptoms present an advanced, late-stage pathology that is uncommon in most first world countries. Because of this, patients in Ethiopia often die from diseases that are readily treatable through surgery in the United States.
As a part of his modest GO-TRAVEL award, Dr. Love has earmarked funds to provide surgical textbooks to the Ethiopian residents with whom he will be working. “Every library I’ve been in has been filled with textbooks from 1980s and 1990s. Hard copies of up-to-date textbooks are something that they will devour,” he said.
Upon his return, Dr. Love will present his findings to the Alumni Board in order to inform the application and selection process for 2015. A call for applications for the 2015 GO-TRAVEL award will be sent through all clinical and basic science departments this spring. The entire Alumni Board will select the recipient. For more information, contact the SOM Alumni Office at 404.727.0462 or email