Clinical Neurosciences Center

Rotation in Africa Opens Residents' Hearts and Minds

Neurology residents may expand their clinical experience while providing invaluable medical assistance in an impoverished part of the world, thanks to a rotation begun by David Renner, MD, Director of the Adult Neurology Residency Program at The University of Utah.

Available as a fourth-year rotation elective, the international program brings residents to either The Republic of Kenya in East Africa or The Republic of Ghana in West Africa for a period of two to four weeks to provide neurological care to patients at local hospitals and rural human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) clinics. Residents teach local physicians about diagnosing and treating neurological complications of HIV, malaria, tuberculosis, and other infectious agents with readily available medications.

Worlds Apart

During this rotation, neurology residents share information on medical techniques with physicians at the African facilities through lecture and demonstration.  In addition to rounds with Dr. Renner, daily activities at the hospitals include a grand, rounds-style presentation of undiagnosed patients, who are then systematically examined, their lesions localized, and tenable diagnoses entertained. Together, local physicians work with Dr. Renner in identifying treatment options with medications available in the country.

Practicing medicine in an affluent, developed nation differs radically from providing patient care in an impoverished, third-world environment. Access to advanced diagnostic equipment like magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanners is rare, and patients must pay fees equivalent to several months’ income in advance for their use. As a result, residents are challenged to rely on deductive reasoning and clinical skills to diagnose and treat their patients.

“My experience in Africa forever changed my perspective on the practice of medicine,” says Chloe Huan, MD, an attending physician who spent two weeks in Kenya as a neurology resident in 2007. “I have more trust in myself as a clinician, and I know I will never be able to take for granted the technology and equipment we have available in the United States.”

For More information about the Neurology Residency Program contact  the Clinical Neurosciences Center at The University of Utah by calling 801-585-7777.