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Innovative Programme Elements Add Value to a FAIMER Regional Institute Faculty Development Fellowship Model in Southern Africa

The Foundation for the Advancement of Medical Education and Research (FAIMER) is a US-based non-profit organisation committed to improving health professions education to improve global health. FAIMER traditionally offers a two year fellowship programme; 2 residential and 3 distance learning sessions and an education innovation project in the fellow’s home institution. The focus is on education methods, leadership/management, scholarship and the development of an international community of health professions educators. During the past 5 years, FAIMER has expanded the programme and established regional institutes in India[3], Brazil[1] and Southern Africa (SAFRI)[1]. We implemented the programme in Africa in 2008, introducing 5 innovations to the generic programme. SAFRI was created as an independent voluntary association to reflect the multinational intent of the programme. Aim of project To understand the impact of the innovations in the structure and implementation of the programme on its quality and the experience of the participants in it. Conclusions Faculty development programmes can significantly enhance their impact: Be sensitive to the local political climate Demonstrate wide ownership Focus on developing a community of practice Work within the professional time constraints of Fellows and faculty Maximise learning opportunities by linking to other scholarly activities  
Juanita Bezuidenhout
about 11 years ago

Circumcision programme to prevent AIDS in Africa is starting to slow down

Six million men have had medical circumcisions to prevent the transmission of HIV in 14 countries in sub-Saharan Africa, but the programme is beginning to slow down, according to a collection of papers published in PLOS One and PLOS Medicine.1
over 6 years ago

A reform too late and a “redisorganisation” too far

The World Health Organization is at the forefront of our efforts to defeat Ebola virus disease. Preventing and treating communicable diseases were the making of WHO as an international organisation capable of delivering successful health campaigns. Historically, Africa has preoccupied WHO more than any other continent. Recent pandemic threats, from avian flu to Middle East respiratory syndrome, readied WHO for the current crisis that now threatens 15 countries (doi:10.1136/bmj.g6305).
about 6 years ago
Foo20151013 2023 10ztc2b?1444774144

Digitalising Textbook initiatives in Africa...But, do the costs add up?

A recent review by World Bank Group has highlighted the enthusiasm for digitalising text books in Africa. Education officials seeking to acquire digital teaching and learning material have come to realise that it is actually quite a challenging and complex process. The procurement processes in comparison to acquiring traditional textbooks is proving to be less cost effective. Currently in Africa a few countries have been ambitious in wanting to roll out digital textbooks, referred to as 'teaching and learning resources and materials presented in electronic and digital formats'. Michael Truanco (Sr. ICT & Education Specialist) for World Bank, makes a clear point about the increasing consideration of the use of free content. Where free content is being used, this means the acquisition of the content is free. But is it really free? The costs associated with piloting small projects in order to introduce digital teaching and learning materials as a way to learn what the related costs are. There are three categories to consider, the costs related to content, the device related costs and ecosystem related cost. Michael highlights the costs related to content which are directly related to the acquisition of content. Although post acquisition - there are other costs to consider, including vetting (for accuracy), contextualising, embedding, classifying and distribution. Device -related costs and other costs which are related includes the end user device which digital teaching materials are viewed on, accompanied with the technical infrastructure. Further costs to consider include the repair and maintenance, replacement, upgrade and security. In order for a device to function efficiently the baseline of electricity needs to be considered. These are the direct related costs to the device, as well as costs associated to the ecosystem. The article does not seek to dampen the initiative of digitalising content but rather highlight the need to consider the finer details in finances, which is a fundamental element within the process of this great initiative. Previous initiatives include the World Bank in Latin America and Africa which sought to provide 'teacher generated content'. The initiative is an excellent one but the reality of digitalising textbook initiatives in Africa may need, further refining in terms of economics and overall financial costings. The question to really ask is whether digitalising textbooks in Africa will have a greater accessibility and outcome than traditional printed format? However, as discussed to achieve this, it will come at a price? But, does the costs outweigh the outcomes? Irrespective of the costs the overall outcome and benefit of digitalising text book initiative in Africa will have a much greater overall impact. Children and adults will be able to access mass content and learning materials in a much more accessible way. Thus, leading to a more effective and positive learning environment. To read more on this topic please feel free to click on the article by Michael Truanco of World Bank (see link below).  
helena kazi
about 7 years ago
Foo20151013 2023 1nftkgk?1444774218

Gin & Tonic Anyone?

It was a Saturday, about tea-time in the quaint village of Athelstaneford, East Lothian. Mrs Alexandria Agutter sat in her cottage, enjoying the delights of the late-summer evening with a glass of gin and tonic. She listlessly sipped from the rather generous pick-me up, no doubt chewing over the happenings of the day. Blast! The taste was much too bitter to her liking. She stood up. And promptly crumpled to the floor in a dizzied heap. It had not been five minutes when a fiery pain gripped her parched throat and in her frenzied turn she watched the bleary room become draped in a gossamery silk. How Dame Agatha would approve. But this is no crime novel, on that fateful day, 24th August 1994, poor Mrs Agutter immortalised herself in the history books of forensic medicine; she was the victim of a revered toxin and a vintage one it was too. She had unwittingly imbibed a G&T laced with a classic poison of antiquity. A clue from the 21st century: do you recall the first Hunger Games film adaption? Those inviting purple-black berries or as Suzanne Collins coined them ‘Nightlock’; a portmanteau of hemlock and Deadly Nightshade. True to the laters’ real life appearance those onscreen fictional fruits played a recurring cameo role. Deadly Nightshade is a perennial shrub of the family Solanaceae and a relative of the humble potato (a member of the Solanus genus). It is a resident of our native woodland and may be found as far afield as Europe, Africa and Western Asia. The 18th century taxonomist, Carl Linnaeus gave the plant an intriguing name in his great Species Plantarum. The genus Atropa is aptly named after one of the three Greek Fates, Atropos. She is portrayed shearing the thread of a mortal’s life so determining the time and manner of its inevitable end. The Italian species name belladona (beautiful woman) refers to the striking mydriatic effect of the plant on the eye. The name pays homage to Pietro Andre Mattioli, a 16th century physician from Sienna, who was allegedly the first to describe the plant’s use among the Venetian glitterati - ladies of fashion favoured the seductive, doe-eyed look. Belladona is poisonous in its entirety. It was from the plant’s roots in 1831, the German apothecary Heinrich F. G. Mein isolated a white, odourless, crystalline powder: it was (surprise, surprise) atropine. Atropine is a chiral molecule. From its natural plant source it exists as a single stereoisomer L-atropine, which also happens to display a chiral potency 50-100 times that of its D-enantiomer. As with many other anaesthetic agents it is administered as a racemic mixture. How strange that atropine now sits among the anaesthetist’s armamentarium, its action as a competitive antimuscarinic to counter vagal stimulation belies its dark history. It was a favourite of Roman housewives seeking retribution against their less than faithful husbands and a staple of the witch’s potion cupboard. Little wonder how belladona became known as the Devil’s plant. Curiouser still it’s also the antidote for other poisons, most notably the organophosphates or nerve gases. On account of its non-selective antagonism, atropine produces a constellation of effects: the inhibition of salivary, lacrimal and sweat glands occurs at low doses; dry mouth and skin are early markers. Pyrexia is a central effect exacerbated by the inability to sweat. Flushing of the face due to skin vessel vasodilatation. Low parasympathetic tone causes a moderate sinus tachycardia. Vision is blurred as the eye becomes dilated, unresponsive to light and accommodation is impaired. Mental disorientation, agitation and ataxia give the impression of drunkedness or a delirium tremens like syndrome. Visual hallucinations, often of butterflies or silk blowing in the wind, are a late feature. It was then that Mr Agutter, seemingly untroubled by the sight of his wife’s problematic situation, proceeded to leave a message with the local practitioner. How fortunate they were to have the vigilant locum check the answering machine and come round to the Agutter’s lodge accompanied by an ambulance crew. The attending paramedic had the presence of mind to pour the remainder of Mrs Agutter’s beverage into a nearby jam jar, while Mr Agutter handed over what he suspected to be the offending ingredient: the bottle of Indian tonic water. As it soon transpired there were seven other casualties in the surrounding countryside of East Lothian – all involving an encounter with tonic water. In fact by some ironic twist of fate, two of the victims were the wife and son of Dr Geoffry Sharwood-Smith, a consultant aneasthetist. Obviously very familiar with the typical toxidrome of anticholinergic agents, he was quick to suspect atropine poisoning. Although for a man of his position with daily access to a sweetshop of drugs, it was not something to draw attention to. Through no small amount of cunning had the poisoner(s) devised the plan. It was elegant; atropine is very bitter. So much so that it can be detected at concentrations of 100 parts per million (0.001%). Those foolish enough to try the berries of belladonna during walks in the woods are often saved by the berry’s sour taste. They are soon spat out. But the quinine in the tonic water was a worthy disguise. The lethal dose for an adult is approximately 90-130mg, however atropine sensitivity is highy variable. In its salt form, atropine sulfate, it is many times more soluble: >100g can be dissolved in 100ml of water. So 1ml may contain roughly tenfold the lethal dose. There ensued a nationwide scare; 50 000 bottles of Safeway branded Indian tonic water were sacrificed. Only six bottles had been contaminated. They had all been purchased, tops unsealed, from the local Safeway in Hunter’s Tryst. Superficially this looked like the handiwork of a psychopath with a certain distaste for the supermarket brand, and amidst the media furore, it did have some verisimilitude: one of the local papers received a letter from 25 year old, Wayne Smith admitting himself as the sole perpetrator. The forensic scientist, Dr Howard Oakley analysed the contents of the bottles. They all contained a non-lethal dose, 11-74mg/litre of atropine except for the Agutter’s, it contained 103mg/litre. The jam jar holding Mrs Agutter’s drink bore even more sinister results, the atropine concentration was 292mg/L. It would appear Mrs Agutter had in some way outstayed her welcome. But she lived. A miscalculation on the part of the person who had added an extra seasoning of atropine to her drink. According to the numbers she would have had to swallow a can’s worth (330ml) to reach the lethal dose. Thankfully she had taken no more than 50mg. The spotlight suddenly fell on Dr Paul Agutter. He was a lecturer of biochemistry at the nearby University of Napier, which housed a research syndicate specialising in toxicology. CCTV footage had revealed his presence at the Safeway in Hunter’s Tryst and there was eye witness evidence of him having placed bottles onto the shelves. Atropine was also detected by the forensic investigators on a cassete case in his car. Within a matter of two weeks he would be arrested for the attempted murder of his wife. Despite the calculated scheme to delay emergency services and to pass the blame onto a non-existent mass poisoner, he had not accomplished the perfect murder. Was there a motive? Allegedly his best laid plans were for the sake of a mistress, a mature student from Napier. He served seven years of a twelve year sentence. Astonishingly, upon his release from Glenochil prison in 2002, he contacted his then former wife proclaiming his innocence and desire to rejoin her in their Scottish home. A proposition she was not very keen on. Dr Agutter was employed by Manchester University as a lecturer of philosophy and medical ethics. He is currently an associate editor of the online journal Theoretical Biology and Medical Modelling. We will never know the true modus operandi as Dr Agutter never confessed to the crime. Perhaps all this story can afford is weak recompense for the brave followers of the Dry January Campaign. Oddly these sort of incidents never appear in their motivational testimonials. Acknowledgements Emsley J. Molecules of Murder. 2008, Cambridge, RSC Publishing, p.46-67. Lee MR. Solanaceae IV: Atropa belladona, deadly nightshade. J R Coll Physicians Edinb. March 2007; 37: 77-84. Illustrator Edward Wong This blog post is a reproduction of an article published in the The Medical Student Newspaper January issue, 2014  
James Wong
almost 7 years ago

Dementia: A reflection from an Egyptian Perspective

Through different periods of the Egyptian history from Pharaonic, Greco-Roman, Coptic, Islamic and Modern Era; Egyptians tend to respect, appreciate and care for elderly. There is also a rich Eastern Christian tradition in respecting and taking care of old people that has continued since the first centuries of Christianity. Churches used to develop retirement homes served by monastic personnel and nurses. Egyptian culture traditionally linked some aspects of mental illnesses to sin, possession of evil, separation from the divine and it is usually associated with stigmatisation for all family members. However, forgetfulness with ageing was normalised. Until now, it seems that the difference between normal ageing and dementia is blurred for some people. Recently, the term 'Alzheimer' became popular, and some people use it as synonymous to forgetfulness. El-Islam, stated that some people erroneously pronounce it as 'Zeheimer' removing the 'Al' assuming it is the Arabic equivalent to the English 'the'. In 2010, a film was produced with the title 'Zeheimer' confirming the mispronunciation. Elderly face many health challenges which affect their quality of life. Dementia is one of these challenges as it is considered to be one of the disorders which attack elderly and affect their memory, mental abilities, independence, decision making and most cognitive functions. Therefore, the focus on dementia has increased around the world due to the rapid spread of the syndrome and the economical and psychosocial burden it cause for patients, families and communities. (Grossber and Kamat 2011, Alzheimer’s Association 2009, Woods et al. 2009). In recent years, the proportion of older people is increasing due to the improvement in health care and scientific development. The demographic transition with ageing of the population is a global phenomenon which may demand international, national, regional and local action. In Egypt the ageing population at the age of 65 and older are less than 5% of the Egyptian population (The World FactBook, 2012), yet, the World Health Organization (WHO) asserts that a demographic shift is going to happen as most of the rapid ageing population will transfer to the low and middle income countries in the near future (WHO, 2012). Egyptian statistics assert this shift. The Information Decision Support Center published the first comprehensive study of the elderly in Egypt in 2008. According to the report, in 1986, 5 percent of Egyptians were age 60 and older. In 2015, they will make up to 11 percent of the population and in 2050; over a fifth. Caring of older persons constitutes an increasing segment of the Egyptian labor market. However, nation wide statistics about number of dementia sufferers in Egypt may be unavailable but the previous demographic transition is expected to be accompanied by an increase in dementia patients in Egypt and will affect priorities of health care needs as well. The Egyptian society may need adequate preparation with regards to health insurance, accommodation and care homes for the upcoming ageing population (El-Katatney, 2009). Although the number of care home increased from 29 in 1986 to be around 140 home in 2009; it cannot serve more than 4000 elderly from a total of 5 million. Not every elderly will need a care home but the total numbers of homes around Egypt are serving less than 1% of the elderly population. These facts created a new situation of needs for care homes besides the older people who are requiring non-hospital health care facility for assisted living. The Egyptian traditions used to be strongly associated with the culture of extended family and caring for elderly as a family responsibility. Yet, in recent years changes of the economic conditions and factors as internal and external immigration may have affected negatively on elderly care within family boundaries. There is still the stigma of sending elderly to care homes. Some perceive it as a sign of intolerance of siblings towards their elderly parents but it is generally more accepted nowadays. Therefore, the need for care homes become a demand at this time in Egypt as a replacement of the traditional extended family when many older people nowadays either do not have the choice or the facilities to continue living with their families (El-Katatney 2009). Many families among the Egyptian society seem to have turned from holding back from the idea of transferring to a care home to gradual acceptance since elderly care homes are becoming more accepted than the past and constitutes a new concept of elderly care. Currently, many are thinking to run away from a lonely empty home in search of human company or respite care but numbers of geriatric homes are extremely lower than required and much more are still needed (Abdennour, 2010). Thus, it seems that more care homes may be needed in Egypt. Dementia patients are usually over 65, this is one of the factors that put them at high risk of exposure to different physical conditions related to frailty, old age, and altered cognitive functions. Additionally, around 50% of people with dementia suffers from other comorbidities which affect their health and increases hospital admissions (National Audit Office 2007). Therefore, it is expected that the possibility of doctors and nurses needing to provide care for dementia patients in various care settings is increasing (RCN 2010). Considering previous facts, we have an urgent need in Egypt to start awareness about normal and upnormal ageing and what is the meaning of dementia. Moreover, change of health policies and development of health services is required to be developed to match community needs. Another challenge is the very low number of psychiatric doctors and facilities since the current state of mental health can summarised as; one psychiatrist for every 67000 citizens and one psychiatric hospital bed for every 7000 citizens (Okasha, 2001). Finally the need to develop gerontologically informed assessment tools for dementia screening to be applied particularly in general hospitals (Armstrong and Mitchell 2008) would be very helpful for detecting dementia patients and develop better communication and planning of care for elderly. References: El Katateny, E. 2009. Same old, same old: In 2050, a fifth of Egyptians will be age 60 and older. How will the country accommodate its aging population?. Online available at: Fakhr-El Islam, M. 2008. Arab culture and mental health care. Transcultural Psychiatry, vol. 45, pp. 671-682 Ageing and care of the elderly. Conference of European churches. 2007. [online] available at: World Health Organization. 2012 a. Ageing and life course: ageing Publications. [Online] available at : World Health Organization. 2012 b. Ageing and life course: interesting facts about ageing. [Online] available at: World Health Organization 2012 c. Dementia a public health priority. [online] available at: World Health Organization. 2012 d. Why focus on ageing and health, now?. Department of Health. 2009. Living well with dementia: a national dementia strategy. [Online] available at: Andrawes, G., O’Brien, L. and Wilkes, L. 2007. Mental illness and Egyptian families. International Journal of Mental Health Nursing, vol.16, pp. 178-187 National Audit Office. 2007. Improving service and support for people with dementia. London. [online[ Available at: Armstrong, J and Mitchell, E. 2008. Comprehensive nursing assessment in the care of older people. Nursing Older People, vol. 20, No. 1, pp. 36-40. Okasha, A. 2001. Egyptian contribution to the concept of mental health. Eastern Mediterranean Health Journal,Vol. 7, no. 3, pp. 377-380. Woods, R., Bruce, E., Edwards, R., Hounsome, B., Keady, J., Moniz-Cook, E., Orrell, M. and Tussell, I. 2009. Reminiscence groups for people with dementia and their family carers: pragmatic eight-centre randomised trial of joint reminiscence and maintenance versus usual treatment: a protocol. Trials Journal: open access, Vol. 10, [online] available at: Grossberg, G. and Kamat, S. 2011. Alzheimer’s: the latest assessment and treatment strategies. Jones and Bartlett, publisher: The United States of America. Alzheimer’s Association. 2009. 2009 Alzheimer’s disease facts and figures. Alzheimer’s & Dementia, Volume 5, Issue 3. [online] Available at: Royal College of Nursing. 2010. Improving quality of care for people with dementia in general hospitals. London. National Audit Office. 2007. Improving service and support for people with dementia. London. [online[ Available at: Authors: Miss Amira El Baqary, Nursing Clinical instructor, The British University in Egypt Dr Emad Sidhom, MBBCh, ABPsych-Specialist in Old Age Psychiatry-Behman Hospital  
Amira El Baqary
almost 7 years ago
Foo20151013 2023 rx9yc2?1444774277

Early Retirement and Career Change

This is my first blog on Meducation. I decided to tell the reader a bit about myself, so that future blogs will make sense. At age 48 and in an active and successful academic practice of OB & GYN, my best friend died from a complication of cardiac surgery. This tragic event made my wife's and me consider other things in life than just work, thus at age 55, I decided to retire from my academic position and to start working as a locum in many different cultural settings. The plan was to work somewhere in an area of need for six months and alternate this with travel for six months. It did not quite work out exactly that way, but close enough. I worked in Japan, then Pakistan, Tasmania, Australia, New Zealand, Alaska, St Lucia, and Chiapas in Mexico. Much earlier I had had a two year experience in Africa. It was a very satisfying experience and my wife and I have never looked back. Many of my friends and colleagues kept urging me to write a book about our experiences and how we accomplished them. For a long time I kept resisting, probably because I felt that no one might be interested, and because I might have been lazy, and most likely for both of these reasons. I finally gave in, started writing and published an e book. The title is "Crosscultural Doctoring. On and Off the Beaten Path." the book can be down loaded for free from Smashwords at: The book is meant for medical as well as non medical people. It is written as a series of loosely connected anecdotes, some medical, some non medical, some funny, some not so funny. The book describes the immense satisfaction my wife and I experienced from our decision and I hope that reading the book might inspire others, medical or non medical people, who might be thinking about a career change or early retirement to jump of the beaten path. The book might also inspire other with similar experiences to write about them. I would love to receive some comments. William J. LeMaire JUNE 2014 Learn more about me please visit my website at:  
DR William LeMaire
over 6 years ago
Foo20151013 2023 1agiiai?1444774290

A curious epidemic of superficial accesses in Africa

This anecdote happened many years ago when I was a brand new (read: inexperienced) physician doing my stint in the Colonial Health Service of the former Belgian Congo. I was assigned to a small hospital in the interior of the Maniema province. Soft tissue infections and abscesses were rather common in this tropical climate, but at one time there seemed to be virtual epidemic of abscesses on the buttocks or upper arms. It seemed that patients with these abscesses were all coming from one area of the territory. That seemed rather odd and we started investigating. By way of background let me say that the hospital was also serving several outlying clinics or dispensaries in the territory. Health aides were assigned to a specific dispensary on a periodic basis. Patients would know his schedule and come to the dispensary for their treatments. Now this was the era of “penicillin.” The natives were convinced that this wonder drug would cure all their ailments, from malaria and dysentery, to headaches, infertility, and impotence. You name it and penicillin was thought to be the cure-all. No wonder they would like to get an injection of penicillin for whatever their ailment was. As our investigation demonstrated, the particular health aide assigned to the dispensary from where most of the abscesses came, would swipe a vial of penicillin and a bottle of saline from the hospital’s pharmacy on his way out to his assigned dispensary. When he arrived at his dispensary there was usually already a long line of patients waiting with various ailments. He would get out his vial of the “magic” penicillin, show the label to the crowd and pour it in the liter bottle of saline; shake it up and then proceed to give anyone, who paid five Belgian Francs (at that time equivalent to .10 US $), which he pocketed, an injection of the penicillin, now much diluted in the large bottle of physiologic solution. To make matters worse, he used only one syringe and one needle. No wonder there were so many abscesses in the area of injection. Of course we quickly put a stop to that. Anyone interested in reading more about my experience in Africa and many other areas can download a free e book via Smashwords at: . The title of the book is "Crosscultural Doctoring. On and Off the Beaten Path"  
DR William LeMaire
over 6 years ago

Africa: Putting Human Rights At the Heart of Reproductive Health

Press Release - Health leaders from around the world convened at United Nations Headquarters, in New York, on Wednesday to highlight the need to ensure human rights are integrated into sexual and reproductive health care, including family planning. This means making sure care is non-discriminatory and aligned to the needs and desires of the community.
over 5 years ago