The Tanzania Experience
FAME. No, I don’t mean the perks of becoming a movie star. I’m talking about the Foundation for African Medicine and Education (FAME), the non-profit hospital and clinic in Karatu, a district in northeastern Tanzania. Conceptualized in the early 2000s by Dr. Frank Artress and Susan Gustafson, FAME has evolved out of a mobile medical center into a fully operational hospital and clinic. It’s mission, to provide medical care to the underserved population of rural Africa.
Disparity. As a continent, Africa bears one quarter of the global burden of disease, and yet, it is afforded only 3% of the world’s healthcare personnel and 1% of the financial healthcare resources. This incredible disparity in care delivery is the target of programs like FAME. And since the clinic doors first opened in 2008, more and more patients journey to this clinic for their medical care. In 2015 alone, over 22,000 patient encounters took place within the facilities at FAME.
Dr. Michael Rubenstein (right) has shepherded the development of an outpatient neurology clinic since its inception in 2010, and has facilitated resident education there since 2013. Using resources afforded to him by the clinic and from charitable donors, the neurology clinic staff have grown in numbers and in clinical expertise. In this past year alone, Dr. Rubenstein and his colleagues raised enough money to supplement an electroencephalogram to the clinic’s (unfortunately limited) diagnostic armamentarium. Before that time, epilepsy diagnoses were made on a clinical basis alone, and were rarely accompanied by CT scans–which have often been prohibitively expensive in the region. Medical decision making had relied entirely on the clinical history, which could delay early recognition of potentially treatable neurologic conditions like infantile spasms.
In our most recent BrainWaves interview with several resident physician volunteers, Drs. Anh-Thu Vu and Jacqueline Gofshteyn report their unforgettable experiences at the family-centered clinic. “I would love to go back,” said Dr. Vu, and certainly the nostalgia is unanimous among the remaining physician volunteers. With the much-needed assistance from generous contributions, and from the support of volunteers like Vu and Gofshteyn, the clinic should continue to flourish in this barren African district.