A new fellowship in the department of family and community medicine will allow two newly graduated family physicians to travel to southern Africa and learn first-hand about global health issues. As part of the innovative one-year program, to be launched next summer, the trainees will spend six months in Toronto doing clinical and academic work designed to strengthen their knowledge of global health initiatives. Clinical responsibilities will focus on health problems that are common in the developing world, such as pregnancy-related conditions, infectious diseases and HIV. During the second half of the program, the trainees will work as family doctors in a hospital or clinic in Malawi or Zimbabwe.
The Toronto stint will prepare the doctors for the challenges of dealing with global health issues before they arrive in Africa, says Katharine Rouleau, an assistant professor and co-ordinator of post-graduate training, international programs, in the department of family and community medicine. The time abroad will provide important hands-on experience in a developing country. Ultimately, the program is designed to give Canadian family physicians interested in global health the skills they’ll need to serve communities effectively in both Africa and Canada. “Our trainees often think they are going out there to help,” she says. “But it doesn’t take long for them to realize they have a lot to learn from our partner communities in Africa. Humility is a key ingredient in medicine – and that’s a valuable lesson to come back with.”
For the resident, gaining clinical experience in a low-income country also highlights the vital roles that food, sanitation and clean water play in the health of a community, says Rouleau.
The new program receives financial support from the Bram and Bluma Appel Global & International Health Fellowships Fund. Mark and Gail Appel created the fund earlier this year in memory of Mark’s parents.