Due to the efforts of one of the graduates of the Harvard Neurology Program, Omar Siddiqi, MD, and the Chief of the Division of Neuro-Immunology at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Igor Koralnik, MD, our department has established a strong association with the University Teaching Hospital in Lusaka, Zambia.

Each year, two residents receive a stipend to travel to Zambia for a one-month elective. During this elective, they see inpatient neurology consults, work in outpatient clinics, instruct medical students, and aid in existing research under the direct supervision of Dr. Omar Siddiqi.

Zambia University Teaching Hospital

Main entrance UTH - Dr. Omar Siddiqi with Neuro Resident, Dr. Merritt Brown

The University Teaching Hospital (UTH) is affiliated with the University of Zambia School of Medicine, the nation's first Bachelor of Medicine- and Bachelor of Surgery- (MB ChB) granting medical school. This 1,600-bed facility located in the nation's capital provides a diverse set of specialties to the citizens of Zambia, including Community Medicine, Internal Medicine (of which Neurology is a sub-specialty), Surgery, Obstetrics and Gynecology, Pathology, and Pediatrics.

Zambia currently suffers from a significant deficit of neurologists, with a total of three neurologists in the country for a population of 14.3 million people. Dr. Siddiqi is one of the two neurologists who work at UTH, taking care of patients who travel from all parts of the country to the capital city for care.

Dr. Siddiqi in neurophysiology laboratory

Dr. Siddiqi in neurophysiology laboratory

In 2014, BIDMC Neurology sent its first residents, Merritt Brown and Christine Cooper, to experience the practice of medicine in another country with a significantly different population than Boston. These patients suffer from a variety of disease processes rarely seen in the U.S., including AIDS-defining illnesses as TB Meningitis, Cerebral Toxoplasmosis, Cryptococcal Meningitis, and Progressive Multifocal Leukoencephalopathy, as well as endemic diseases such as African Trypanosomiasis and malaria.

In addition to these disease processes, residents have the opportunity to navigate a health system vastly different than that of the U.S. During the month-long rotation, they learn to treat patients in an environment with more limited access to imaging and medications. They also experience the strong bonds that Zambian patients and their families share, much like those of their patients in America.

Dr. Sarah Horn in Zambia

PGY2 Neuro Resident Dr. Sarah Horn in Zambia, 2015

In addition to exposure to patients and the Zambian healthcare system, residents have the opportunity to interact with other independent research organizations, such as Zambia AIDS Related Tuberculosis Project (ZAMBART) and the Center for Infectious Disease Research in Zambia (CIDRZ). Featured lectures are provided throughout the month at these locations.

Zambia internal medical residents

Zambia medical student teaching rounds

Dr. Siddiqi with internal medicine residents (top) and during medical student teaching rounds (bottom)

The unique feature about this Zambia elective at BIDMC, in contrast to other programs offering global health electives, is that there is a BIDMC faculty member based full-time in Zambia who supervises all aspects of the clinical experience. Visiting residents and fellows are given a temporary medical license through the Health Professionals Council of Zambia. As a result, BIDMC trainees are fully integrated into the Zambian health system, see inpatients/outpatients, and write orders.

Zambia is also known to be one of the most peaceful countries in sub-Saharan Africa with a democratically elected president. The official language of the country is English, so visitors have little difficulty interacting with patients. Most trainees are impressed by the warmth and openness of the Zambian people. Finally, Zambia is a country of unprecedented beauty, with numerous national parks and abundant wildlife. Most visitors elect to further explore this amazing region at the conclusion of the elective.

resident teaching rounds at UTH with Dr. Igor Koralnik

Resident teaching rounds at UTH with Dr. Igor Koralnik

For more information on this elective, please contact Dr. Omar Siddiqi, Director, Global Neurology Program, at osiddiqi@bidmc.harvard.edu.

All photographs are courtesy of Dr. Siddiqi, except for the last one, which is courtesy of Dr. Koralnik.