Melissa Smith in Ethiopia.

Melissa Smith, advisory committee member for The Addis Clinic, visited Ethiopia and met with our partner Ethiopia Act in November.

Ethiopia captured my heart several years ago.  The people and the culture stood out to me immediately.  The country is so full of kindness, love, and gratitude.  I have come to call many of the people my dear friends and expect some of them to be in my life for many years to come.  The intention of the culture first drew me in with the simple coffee ceremonies.  Coffee “to go” is a nonexistent concept in Ethiopia.   Coffee ceremonies happen several times a day and provide the opportunity to build community and friendships. I’m so humbled by what this country has to offer and how quickly they have accepted me as one of their own, family. 

I initially started going to Ethiopia working with a nonprofit that focuses on orphan prevention.   This was my first trip for The Addis Clinic and focusing on the healthcare side.  In the States, I work for a healthcare company, specifically in the EMR (Electronic Medical Record) space.   Through previous visits, I had seen the vast need for expansion of healthcare in Ethiopia.  Both the city and the countryside have considerable room for advancement in devices, knowledge, and medicines.   The Addis Clinic is an extremely exciting organization that provides the opportunity for physicians and healthcare workers in third world countries to partner with providers in the States to consult on cases.  The exciting part about the consult is the assessment/treatment is based on the specific elements in that country.   They provide feedback based on the labs and medicines that are available in that specific area. 

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While in Ethiopia, I spent some time with one of The Addis Clinic’s partners Ethiopia Act.  Act is an incredible ministry that focuses on the family as a whole:  food, medical, rent, education, etc.   Hiwot is the healthcare professional working with Act and was able to spend some time walking me through the partnership with The Addis Clinic and some of the hardships of treating patients in a third world country.   For me, the length of the process to determine treatment was one of the most fascinating parts of her work.   The majority of Act’s patients are HIV positive and live in an extremely impoverished area.  Hiwot is working hard daily to help treat each of the patients and help them manage their medications.  Recently she has seen the type of medical needs expand past the HIV and medication management.  

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While there, Hiwot began with walking me through the length of time it can take to determine an assessment for a patient, which can sometimes take several weeks.   In the States, we are adapted to instant answers and results, but not everyone has that same opportunity.   One of the things Hiwot struggles with is the ability to quickly connect with a patient.   If Hiwot needs to ask the patients additional questions or have the patient go to the clinic for tests, she has to go and find the patient in person.  Those in the community typically do not have cell phones and do not live in an easy place to visit.   Hiwot must first get transportation that can get her as close as possible to the village and then walk to find the patient house.  If they are not home or in the area, she will have to plan another trip back to speak with that particular patient.  It may take several attempts to connect with a patient if additional information is required before providing an assessment.  I was wowed by the time and effort that it can at times take to diagnose a patient. 

The Addis Clinic has not only partnered with Act and Hiwot to help treat patients, but they are also working hard to help decrease the time it takes to determine an assessment.  With various new processes in place to help collect all necessary information up front, The Addis Clinic is a valuable partner to Ethiopia Act.  I am so honored to have the opportunity to work with The Addis Clinic and continue to help increase their partners, optimize workflows, and support the organization in any way.  Healthcare is such an exciting industry and provides so many opportunities to those in need.  I am on the edge of my seat waiting until the next time I can head across the pond.