WiRED in East Africa
BY KRISTEN GARABEDIAN
[Continued from Home page]
arolyn Wallin and Veronica Ades have never met, but both women recently took the same innovative action to save lives in Africa: They personally delivered donated laptops and WiRED Community Health Information (CHI) e-libraries to medical professionals in developing regions of Tanzania and Uganda.
Wallin, a registered nurse at Queen of the Valley Medical Center in Napa Valley, California, traveled to Tanzania in February 2012 to deliver WiRED's healthcare training series to the nonprofit Foundation for African Medicine & Education (FAME). Wallin had read a newspaper article about FAME's founder, Dr. Frank Artress, a few years earlier and was so inspired by the work that he and his wife Susan Gustafson were doing to improve medical care in East Africa that she traveled to Tanzania to volunteer at the FAME clinic.
With a Lifetime Teaching Credential in California, Wallin, who taught elementary school for over 20 years, said she was very impressed with WiRED's CHI library. "From an educator's point of view, it was exciting to see how the library was organized and presented," she said. "I was captivated by some of the units! The medical staff was amazed at what was available and so easily accessible. There was so much to absorb with the program and the wonderful design of it that they had not yet formulated any specific use at the time of my departure."
Tororo General Hospital
WiRED also recently sent donated laptops and CHI e-library to Africa with Dr. Veronica Ades, who traveled to the Tororo General Hospital in Uganda, near the Kenyan border. Ades had previously conducted clinical research and practiced as a volunteer ob/gyn at Tororo Hospital; during that time, she had blogged about her experiences and the extremely limited resources available to hospital staff. The Internet was unavailable and access to medical textbooks and other educational resources was nonexistent, Ades said.
WiRED Board Member Chris Spirito happened to read Ades' blog, and he emailed to ask how he could help. "I know Chris has fantastic computer skills, so I approached the Senior Hospital Administrator, a wonderful man named Amos Oboke," Ades said. Spirito not only organized a team to create a comprehensive website for the hospital, he also offered to send over the WiRED healthcare e-library on donated laptops.
Tororo General Hospital Staff Meeting
"When I brought the laptops, Amos and the whole staff were thrilled and very grateful," Ades said. "We convened a hospital-wide staff meeting, and I explained how to use the programs. Because not everyone is computer-literate, I had to be careful to demonstrate the process very well. We went through a module (I believe the malaria module was of particular interest, since the malaria rate in this area is extremely high), and the reactions were very positive. People really responded to the simple format with clear language, to the graphics, and especially to the quiz questions. When a question would come on screen, everyone would discuss it and debate it, and then come up with a collective answer. It was a great way to engage the crowd."
Many Tororo Hospital staff members are eager to learn and improve their knowledge base through access to new tools, and Ades believes that they were very happy to have access to a new learning tool. Ades hopes that the CHI library will be used in two ways: 1) as a source of continuing medical education, so that people can come in and choose a subject they want to learn more about and increase their knowledge base and 2) as a specific reference tool, so that if a specific case comes up and hospital staff want to know how to diagnose or treat the patient, they can easily go to the computer and look up the condition.
Tororo General Hospital
"I thought it was especially helpful how clear the language was, and how engaging the design was," Ades said. Expansion of the WiRED library will have to go hand in hand with instruction on computer literacy, she said, since a surprising number of people in the region have little or no experience with computers. "For example, none of the midwives I worked with have an email account, or know how to get one."
Continuing medical education (CME) is a new, but welcome, concept worldwide. Ades described the WiRED e-library format as very valuable because it eliminates the need for medical and healthcare books, which are heavy, difficult to transport, and quickly become outdated. "Internet access in rural Africa is also improving, and as it does, the ability to update software and transmit more data will improve," she said. "I think this makes WiRED's model increasingly valuable in the developing world."
Reflecting on her similar positive experience delivering WiRED's CHI e-library and donated laptop to Tanzania, Wallis added: "Personally, I see the program as a blessing for all NGOs. Once again, I thank you for giving the program to FAME and the peoples of Tanzania."
To read WiRED Board Member Allison Kozicharow's full interview with Dr. Veronica Ades, click here.
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