This past November, another seminal moment in the development of African emergency medicine: the continent’s first conference on leadership in the speciality. In the Entoto mountains, high above Addis Ababa, over a dozen Ethiopian emergency physicians discussed how to make careers when no one before you can show you the way.
“The Art and Science of Leadership: developing your emergency medicine career” had interactive sessions delivered by delegates from around the world: Canada, Tanzania, South Africa, and Ethiopia. Topics ranged from how to engage one’s University in advancing knowledge, addressing a global problem of overcrowding, improving physician wellness, and financial security.
Lively discussions ensued on these topics, including comments from African physicians on shared challenges, collaborations to address them. Ethiopian graduates, some of whom now must take emergency medicine to a hospital far away from Addis’ international community, left the conference with a strategy. Most importantly, however, was the sense of solidarity, that a common, peaceful purpose spanned countries and continents. What may seemed like a small community prior to the meeting was recognized as just a developing tendril of a global one. Prior to this meeting, only a year ago, the lamentations of Ethiopian graduates about a lack of opportunities inspired this gathering. By the end of the weekend, they identified a different problem: how difficult it was to choose from the many avenues in which their career could grow. The enthusiasm was contagious.
The upcoming years, though not easy, will be formative for the speciality in Ethiopia and Africa. Is it possible to keep young, skilled doctors engaged in a public system that needs their support in order to thrive? Can safe spaces be as surely made for people with little money to spend, as it is with those for whom money is not a concern? These are questions that every country faces, but none as acutely as these young leaders. The answers that emerge will impact patient care beyond Ethiopia, to the many places overwhelmed by a surplus of unaddressed emergencies.
Thanks to the Donner Canadian Foundation for their support of Ethiopia’s EM leaders.