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Global Health Intitiative and People to People Address Health Crisis in Africa

Prominent global health leaders, such as the former U.S. Ambassador to Ethiopia David Shinn; the Ethiopian Minister of Health, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus; and Senior Investigator at the U.S. National Institute of Health (NIH), Eugene Major via video conference, gathered at the University of Kentucky on Nov. 27 for a symposium organized by the University of Kentucky’s Global Health Initiative and People to People (P2P), a global nonprofit, to discuss and create solutions to the severe shortage of medical professionals in Africa, as well as the gap in its medical and scientific knowledge.

The symposium explored solutions to problems such as medical education, funding for health care partnerships and health care issues in sub-Saharan Africa, focusing primarily on Ethiopia. Other topics included ideas for twinning and tele-medicine initiatives, international exchange programs, case-based exchanges and e-mentoring.

Founder and President of P2P, Dr. Enawgaw Mehari, sees the triangular relationship between African institutions, U.S. institutions and the African diaspora as a potential solution to these problems.

 “Local African institutions need access to the technology that is available in the U.S.  In order to make the transfer successful, the African diaspora must be involved as they know the language and culture of both parties,” said Dr. Mehari.

P2P had its beginnings at the University of Kentucky in 1999 when Dr. Joseph Berger, Professor and Chair of the Department of Neurology, and Dr. Enawgaw Mehari, an Ethiopian native and then-UK neurology resident, chaired a colloquium in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia on “The Challenges of AIDS in Africa.” The colloquium was sponsored by the United Nations.

“That was the first international AIDS conference in east Africa, and at that time the Ethiopian government was not prepared to admit that AIDS was a problem,” Berger said.

To continue the work that was accomplished in the colloquium, Berger and Mehari founded P2P, which has grown into an international network of organizations with headquarters in the U.S. and Ethiopia.

“We would like UK to act as the hub for P2P’s work,” said Joseph Berger. “UK has a tremendous amount of experience using teleconference technology that successfully connects UK health professionals with groups in Jordan, Ethiopia and Brazil. This technology and expertise is key to P2P’s success in Africa.”

Susan Carvalho, associate provost for international programs, notes how UK is working towards these same goals, “UK’s Global Health Initiative is focused on bringing together the strengths across UK’s campus, in international health care, with a focus on disparities in access to top-quality treatments. This conference showed how universities in the U.S. can partner with those in Africa, and in particular with medical schools there, to create opportunities for students to learn on both sides, and for all of us to share best practices.”

Among those who participated in the symposium from UK were President Eli Capilouto; Susan Carvalho; Dr. Michael Karpf, UK's executive vice president for health affairs; and Dr. Frederick deBeer, dean of UK's College of Medicine. 

Ethiopian diaspora leaders from Albert Einstein School of Medicine, East Carolina University, George Washington University, the Mayo Clinic, Stanford University School of Medicine, Temple University School of Medicine, University of Kentucky College of Medicine, University of Michigan, University of Wisconsin, West Virginia School of Medicine, as well as representatives from World Bank and the National Institutes of Health also attended the conference.