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David Geffen School of Medicine

Postcard from Ethiopia

  Dr. Chi Y. Chung

Dr. Chi Y. Chung (white coat, left) with Myungsung Medical College faculty, staff and students.
Photo: Courtesy of Dr. Chi Y. Chung

Originally from Ethiopia, Ruth T. Getachew, MD ’15, and her family moved to San Jose, California, when she was 10 years old. She now is starting her intern year at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center as part of the Family Medicine Residency Program. Her upbringing in Ethiopia inspired her to pursue a medical career focused on low-income and underserved communities. In 2015, Dr. Getachew returned to her birthplace and discovered the need for primary-care and specialized physicians to not only treat patients, but also to teach aspiring doctors.

During the 1990s in Ethiopia, there was a sense of unease as our country recovered from the famine of the 1980s, transitioned from a communist to a democratic government and grappled with the growth of HIV/AIDS. As a result, once I came to live in California, I was not eager to return. Yet, every time I land in Ethiopia, I struggle to hold back tears. I love and miss Ethiopia’s ancient traditions and its earnest thirst for progress.

In my most recent trip to Addis Ababa, I was shocked to find that the practice of preventive care is in its infancy in Ethiopia. The country has made great progress in reducing fetal mortality, and it has increased medical access in rural regions. Nonetheless, preventive care is restricted to those who can afford an annual exam, and the nation’s medical resources are overwhelmed by the management of communicable and tropical diseases.

As excited as I am about my future career goals, including contributing to Ethiopia’s primary care, I learned that there is a great demand for specialized doctors. Chi Y. Chung, MD (RES ’04), former assistant program director for the Pan-African Academy of Christian Surgeons, arranged for me to visit Myungsung Christian Medical Center and Myungsung Medical College (MMC), as well as meet with Rahel Getachew, MD (no relation), an MMC dean. She repeatedly stressed that the hospital and medical school need assistance from specialized doctors in all fields of medicine to volunteer their services and/ or teach. The MMC faculty and medical students I met echoed the same concern. Currently, MMC students have access to an international faculty of permanent and visiting professors from several countries, including Ethiopia, the United States, Korea, Canada and Egypt. Perhaps some of my Class of 2015 colleagues will be part of Ethiopia’s solution — once we have attained the invaluable skills we are learning during our residencies.


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