Global Health Fellowship program influence reaches across the globe

(Edmonton) A medical resident from Uganda is in Edmonton this summer learning new clinical skills that will benefit her patients at home, thanks to a global-health exchange program offered by the Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry at the University of Alberta.

Phoebe Mbabazi, who is specializing in internal medicine, arrived in early June and will spend a total of 12 weeks working with a variety of specialists before returning to Uganda to finish her final year of residency training. She is studying at the Makerere University in Uganda’s capital of Kampala.
Since arriving, Mbabazi has worked with neurologists and cardiologists and conducted clinical work. During the remaining weeks of the exchange, she’ll work with endocrinologists on the inpatient wards and in outpatient clinics.

“I thought it would be an excellent opportunity. The patient care and management here is more focused on communicating with patients and explaining diseases. That is something I have learned here that I will use when I return to Uganda.

“At home, the number of patients we see in a day is so high, up to 60 patients a day. So taking the time to communicate more with patients is something that is not easy.”

By working with various specialists, Mbabazi has also learned some new skills when it comes to carrying out a physical examination on her patients�different ways of asking questions and using technology to supplement the examination. In Uganda, there aren’t enough resources to conduct a variety of tests on patients, so physicians there rely heavily on their clinical skills and the clinical exam.

Mbabazi noted Canada has more cases of coronary artery disease and neurological diseases such as stroke and multiple sclerosis. In Uganda, the more common diseases or conditions on medicine wards are malaria, other tropical diseases and HIV.

When she returns home, she will encourage her fellow residents to come to the U of A to take part in the exchange program.

“It’s a good experience and something that will remain with me and impact my practice. It is wonderful to get the exposure of seeing how medicine is practised in another part of the world, to see an ideal system. This experience will make me a better resident and when I’m finished, a better physician.”

David Zakus, director of the faculty’s global health program, said the exchange is a great example of building connections with other communities, cultures and countries.

"The need to create bridges between societies, rich or poor, is in part fulfilled by such exchanges in which knowledge is shared and gained, and friendships are made and shared."

Anne Fanning, former director of the program, echoed similar sentiments. The shared experience brings great value to both the Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry and residents, she said, noting clinical skills and the judicious use of technology are very important.

The exchange opportunity was funded by the global health program through the U of A, money raised by the annual Richman Poorman Dinner and the Rotary Club of Edmonton, which paid for Mbabazi’s air travel.

The Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry is committed to serving communities at home and overseas. It has established the Division of Community Engagement as a way to build dialogue between communities and the faculty in the areas of indigenous health, inner-city health, global health and rural and regional health.