Monday, 25 February 2013


Ethiopia is Africa’s largest producer of honey.  Honey has always had a special place in Ethiopian culture.  When the Queen of Sheba went on her little northern trek to visit King Solomon, it is thought that she brought Ethiopian honey as part of her gift package.

As in most cultures, home brew of some sort makes it way into the local cuisine.  Tej is Ethiopia’s home brew.  It is a honey wine that is brewed and drunk exclusively in Ethiopia and Eritrea.

I really wish I liked it more.  It has a lovely yellow/orange colour and is served in a berele, which is a container that looks like a funky chemistry beaker.   All in all it looks like something that should be thoroughly enjoyed.  Unfortunately it tastes (as you might expect) like sweet fermented honey.

Usually when we are out, if I am having some difficulty managing eating or drinking something, Mike will come to my rescue and finish up my eat or drink.  Not so with Tej.

Our landlady brews Tej, so we have a steady supply.   Some photos of our last meal at their place, complete with a large glass of poured Tej.

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

The Launch

Haven’t blogged in a while; we have actually been busy working (shocking as that may seem)…..,

And so our program launched.  The first ever family medicine residents in Ethiopia began on Feb.  4th, 2013.

A little bit of background: The idea of family medicine or “specialist” generalist has been percolating in Ethiopia for many years.  After many years of work from both Ethiopian and U of T faculty, family medicine has arrived in Ethiopia.  It has been well shown that countries with a strong primary care health system have better health outcomes, so we hope that will be true in Ethiopia.

The program is led by our Ethiopian colleague, Dr. Dawit.  It is a collaboration with Addis Ababa University, U of T and University of Wisconsin.   Mike and I are the outliers from NOSM.  We had a big crew from all these places the help with the inauguration.  The U of T gang did a terrific course on the foundations of FM.

Our five residents with Dawit (very left)
We have five amazing residents from varied backgrounds.  These brave souls will have the job of shaping family medicine in Ethiopia.

Their stories of why they chose medicine as a career are both inspiring and heartbreaking but keep us human.  A few examples: “ I wanted to be a doctor because when I was in 8th grade I saw my sister die in childbirth”……” I chose medicine because when I was small, my father, who was a tailor, came home and just died…..I wanted to know how this could happen”.

The whole gang
I sometimes wonder how much of an impact 5 family doctors will have in a country of almost 90 million people, but I suppose you have to start somewhere.  This is the start.