Leading From the East

Published on July 13, 2015
As the current President of the Ethiopian Society of Emergency Medicine Professionals, Dr. Teklu is leading efforts to form the clinical structure for EM in Ethiopia and neighboring countries.

Imagine an ED with no space for patients, no ability to provide blood, constant transfers to other hospitals because of a shortage of beds, and, worse, a staff with no emergency medicine training. This describes the reality of rural Ethiopian emergency rooms only a few years ago. Dr. Sisay Teklu, a trained OB/GYN from southwest Ethiopia, found a need for the development of EM in his country.

Dr. Teklu was born and raised in southwest Ethiopia. After high school, he completed a six-year course at Addis Ababa University in Family Medicine, graduating as a general practitioner. He completed his rural service and then continued his medical training, specializing in the registrar program in obstetrics and gynecology. In 2004, he finished his residency in obstetrics and gynecology, and joined the teaching staff in 2006.

Several years later, the Dean from Addis Ababa University School of Medicine, Dr. Zufan, formed a task force, including Dr. Teklu, from major clinical departments to determine who among the patient load seen by Black Lion Hospital’s departments of surgery, anesthesia, internal medicine, and obstetrics and gynecology would benefit from having an ED. The results of this task force led to the formation of a new Emergency Medicine Department, headed by Dr. Aklilu Azazh; the creation of pre-hospital care and training, coordinated by Dr. Assefu Woldetsadik; and the post graduate program for Emergency Medicine, led by Dr. Teklu.

In October 2013, Dr. Teklu witnessed the graduation of the first group of Emergency Medicine residents from the Addis Ababa University School of Medicine, who are now imparting their emergency care knowledge to nurses. The EM program has also extended into the undergraduate curriculum, making it much easier for general practitioners to join EM residency programs. With such a rapidly growing program, the Ethiopian Society of Emergency Medicine Professionals (ESEMP) was formed to coordinate activities nationwide and to bring physicians, nurses, and paramedics under one umbrella. Dr. Teklu hopes to take this experience to neighboring countries within the near future to help develop emergency medicine programs.

As the current President of ESEMP, Dr. Teklu has optimistic goals for emergency care. He hopes to expand facilities to 1,000 small districts, each with their own EMS system and vehicles. The plan is to continue expanding their curriculum to include 11 modules and to eventually produce between 5,000 and 10,000 trainees. The hope is for ESEMP to gain the support of the Ethiopian government for its efforts in training more emergency physicians. With the hard work of Dr. Teklu and his colleagues, the continuing development for Emergency Medicine in Ethiopia is sure to continue apace.

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