Vol. 12 No. 9 - April, 2010

Pediatric training in Liberia

liberia
photo provided by OGME
Since late 2008, the Department of Pediatrics has partnered with Health Education and Relief Through Teaching to rebuild medical workforce capacity in Liberia. Pictured here is a team at the JFK Medical Center in Monrovia.

The civil war that took place in Liberia from1997 to 2003 caused considerable destruction and loss of life. Much of the country’s medical infrastructure and medical training programs were dismantled. In the aftermath of the war, only about 50 physicians remain, and there is still not a single practicing pediatrician in country.

With more than 50 percent of the population under the age of 18, and with one of the highest mortality rates in the world for infants and children underfive years old , this country is in dire need of pediatricians and pediatric training programs. Although the Dogliotti School of Medicine remained functional during the war, many disruptions brought medical education almost to a standstill. It took the medical students many years (in some cases, up to 12 years) to fulfill the requirements needed to graduate. Those who did manage to graduate found a very limited number of clinical faculty available to teach them at the JFK Medical Center, the country’s national teaching hospital.

In 2008, the Department of Pediatrics partnered with Health Education and Relief Through Teaching (HEARTT), whose goal is to rebuild medical workforce capacity in Liberia. Since late 2008, the Department of Pediatrics has sent seven teams, consisting of one faculty member and one or two pediatric residents, to the JFK Medical Center in Monrovia. Each team has been responsible for teaching residents and medical students in the inpatient unit, the outpatient department and the emergency department. The faculty and residents have created a pediatric curriculum, and have been integrally involved in formal teaching conferences for Liberian medical students and housestaff rotating through the pediatric service.

Over the past year, under the leadership of Patricia McQuilkin, MD, clinical associate professor of pediatrics and director of Global Medicine Education for the Department of Pediatrics, the program has expanded greatly. UMMS has partnered with faculty from Boston Children’s Hospital and the Department of Global Medicine at Mount Sinai School of Medicine to provide 12 months of teaching and coverage on the ground. This project provides great hope to Liberian medical students and housestaff that a new generation of Liberian pediatricians with be forthcoming soon.