Zambia: Maintaining Medical Education During COVID

CommunicationsBlog, Medicine, Zambia

This post was authored by Matthew Haldeman, MD who is a Seed Family Medicine Physician working in Zambia.  Working at the University of Zambia and Chilenje Hospital in Lusaka, Matthew is continuing to support Family Medicine registrars and students through online education, as well as, clinical training and mentorship.

Sometimes when I’m teaching online, I feel as though I’m talking into outer space.

Online video conferences can feel inherently awkward, so people are less willing to open up.  Few people ask questions or offer comments because of the time delay. When those comments arise, they can feel more like interruptions, delaying the lecture’s progress.  As a visiting faculty from the United States, I worry that my English is harder to understand through a virtual platform as compared to a face-to-face meeting.

Today, however, was different.

We had had a busy morning.  The Family Medicine registrars completed their first exam — an online assessment — covering topics in cardiology and pulmonology.  Then, we had a 1-hour lecture on sleep disorders.  But now, to end our day, we discussed something new—the concept of the Patient-Centered Medical Home (PCMH).

Prior to the talk, I had encouraged everyone to contribute comments, so that it would be more of a discussion than a true lecture.  As I introduced the topic, I could see the interest on the registrars’ faces.  When I stopped and asked for comments, several people chimed in.  Before I knew it, we were discussing what PCMH would look like in a Zambian context and how we’d like to apply some of these concepts to our future Family Medicine clinic.

The excitement was contagious.  The discussion was easy.  The passion to pursue quality primary care in Zambia was undeniable.

I ended our conversation by saying, “I’m so excited to be a part of this journey with you all.  No one has tried to implement PCMH concepts in Zambia before, we are all truly pioneers.  I can’t wait to work towards these goals together.”  There was a short silence as these words sunk in.  Smiles crept onto faces.  The shared anticipation was palpable.

One of the 2nd year registrars replied, “I too cannot wait to be a pioneer with you.”