Jimma University Site Visit Short Report

SAMSS Team Visits Jimma University

Site Visitors:

Site Visitors:

From the Advisory Committee: Prof. Paschalis Rugarabamu and Prof Mwapatsa Mipando

Advisory Committee Host: Prof Abraham Halieamlak

From the Secretariat: Prof. Candice Chen and Prof. Ryan Greysen

The SAMSS Site Visit team: Profs. Chen (GW), Greysen (GW), Halieamlak
(Jimma), Rugarabamu (Tanzania), and Mipando (Malawi)

Ethiopia is an eastern African nation with 74,000,000 people, 84% of whom live in rural areas. Supplying the population's medical needs has been a major challenge, and the World Health Organization named Ethiopia as one of the 57 countries with a critical health worker shortage. It has only three physicians per 100,000 population, well below the average of 20 per 100,000 for all African countries. Jimma University is one of the eleven medical schools in the country, and it has long been recognized for its innovative approach to medical education. 

Professor Abraham shows the site visit team the courtyard of a Health Center
affiliated with Jimma University

Professor Abraham organized an informative site visit that introduced the SAMSS team to many of Jimma University’s projects. Jimma University has been a great innovator in its incorporation of community-based education into its medical curriculum. Medical students travel to one of seven health centers throughout their training. Each Health Center is a primary health care facility that covers a population base of about 25,000 people each. The students work in multidisciplinary teams including students from the schools of medicine, nursing, pharmacy, and dentistry. The program is quite popular in the communities, and a number of additional communities have applied to partner with the University to host medical students at their Health Centers.

Health Center staff brief the site visit team

Students undertake a progression of data collection, community diagnosis and solution proposals during their time in the Health Centers. The problems addressed can range from operational issues within the Health Center to public health problems in the community. If the proposed solution is workable and within the University’s budget, the University attempts to support the student’s proposal.

Patients wait to be seen outside a Health Center

The government of Ethiopia has recently decided to scale up its health workforce dramatically. In order to do this, all of the public medical schools including Jimma University will be required to increase their enrollment significantly during the coming year. The site visit team was impressed at the coordination demonstrated between various ministries of the government, professional bodies, and the university. Ethiopia’s health workforce plan seemed to have been developed with extensive consultation with each of these parties, and that collaboration increased each party’s buy-in.

The country’s commitment to expand its capacity has included significant
investment in new infrastructure, including this new teaching hospital that is
currently under construction.

The continued investment by the government will be crucial to the success of the planned increase in student enrollment. Current facilities run close to capacity, but extensive construction is an indication of the government’s commitment to providing the infrastructure needed for Jimma University to maintain its quality of education. For instance, the university currently only has 25 computers available for its students to use for their studies. However, it has recently purchased 400 computers to be added to its stock. These computers will be connected by an intranet system, and continued investment in utility infrastructure will ensure that the maximum benefit possible is obtained from this investment.

Students use the computers at Jimma University’s library.

This coming scale-up will also present a challenge to the University’s faculty. Jimma University has been undertaking new strategies to hire and retain medical professors. These strategies include the expansion of graduate medical education programs as well as faculty salary support and non-financial incentives. Jimma University has found its students eager to take advantage of opportunities for graduate medical education and has never struggled to fill its available positions.

An anatomy lab at Jimma University

Overall, the site visit team was quite impressed by Jimma University’s commitment to community-based education through a team-based approach. It will be a challenge to maintain the quality of the education provided during the coming influx of larger classes, but the faculty are committed to providing a world-class education and the government has shown a willingness to invest in new facilities for the University.

The SAMSS team walks through the heart of Jimma University’s
medical school campus

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