Bringing vital pulmonology tools and techniques to Tanzania

CommunicationsBlog, Tanzania

Dr. Hassani Ramadhani at Muhimbili National Hospital in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

Dr. Hassani Ramadhani (left) performing a bronchoscopy at Muhimbili National Hospital in Dar es Salaam.

In the US and other wealthy countries, bronchoscopy – using a long, thin viewing instrument to examine the inside of a patient’s airway and lungs – is an essential technique for diagnosing and sometimes treating lung cancer, interstitial lung disease, tuberculosis and other lung problems. In poor countries like Tanzania, both bronchoscopes and clinicians trained to use them are in very short supply.

In Tanzania, the public health system for a country with over 50 million people had only one bronchoscope at its main referral hospital and one doctor capable of using it … until GHSP Physician Educator Bill Thompson arrived in 2014 to work at Muhimbili University of Health and Allied Sciences (MUHAS).

“We have one professor who used to teach us, but when Dr. Thompson came, the training got intensified and a lot more structured,” recalled Dr. Grace Shayo, an internal medicine doctor and faculty member who was one of seven physicians Dr. Thompson trained. “I loved his teaching. It was very hands-on. He had us practice on a hand-made dummy so that by the time we went to the bronchoscopy room we felt very comfortable.”

Dr. Hassani Ramadhani, a surgeon at Muhimbili National Hospital (MNH), was another of Dr. Thompson’s students. “When Dr. Thompson came, he increased interest in bronchoscopy and strengthened our training,” Dr. Ramadhani said.

Now, Drs. Ramadhani and Shayo, along with others trained by Dr. Thompson, are providing bronchoscopies for patients at MNH and working to strengthen both the infrastructure and training for bronchoscopy in Tanzania.

“It automatically becomes my job, whenever I get such skills, to transfer them to other people,” observed Dr. Ramadhani. “So the training is our main objective, and not to train ourselves only. Once we are trained, we need to train other people.”

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