Andrew Pellew-Nabbs reflects on his involvement with RAD-AID International, a non-profit organisation, whose mission it is to provide medical imaging and radiology to areas where resources are limited.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), approximately 3-4 billion people are at risk for widespread losses and deaths that can be avoided or treated, if radiology were available. Ultrasound is a ubiquitous and vital imaging modality across the globe, being relatively accessible in even low-resource healthcare settings.
Getting involved in the work of ultrasound services in a resource limited health system can provide a unique and rewarding chance to not only support our colleagues internationally, but also to develop our own practice and experience something beyond our normal day-to-day work.
In November of 2018, I had the opportunity to volunteer with RAD-AID International, a non-profit organisation whose mission is to optimise access to medical imaging and radiology in resource-limited regions of the world. It achieves this ambition through the help of volunteers who specialise in imaging across the radiology spectrum, and who give their time to contribute to its work in established programs across the world.
My trip was funded through an overseas placement fund offered through the College of Radiologists (CoR) as part of the CoR/RAD-AID fellowship.
I joined a 5-member, multi-disciplinary team in Ethiopia to support the training and education of radiology residents at the Tikur Anbessa Specialised Hospital in Addis Ababa, known locally as the Black Lion Hospital. I was amongst other like-minded individuals all keen to share their knowledge to the benefit of the residents and patients and our combined skillset covered vascular ultrasound; general, small parts and MSK ultrasound; CT; X-ray; MRI and medical physics.
‘My objective was to provide some hands-on and theory vascular ultrasound guidance’
Black Lion Hospital is one of 5 government hospitals in Addis Ababa, who collectively serve a population of around 3 million people. Black Lion itself sees around 300,000 to 400,000 patients per year, and radiology is key to diagnosis and management for a significant number of these.
Ultrasound is a crucial component of the radiology setup at Black Lion, with daily general, paediatric, small parts, vascular and obstetric sessions and developing musculo-skeletal and breast imaging.
My objective was to provide some hands-on and theory vascular ultrasound guidance to the residents on ultrasound placement as part of their rotational training. Day-to-day, I was allowed to sit in on the scanning sessions and discuss cases with the team, whilst providing some practical training.
To supplement this, I also delivered some seminars on basic ultrasound principles; vascular pathology and image optimisation. The residents were a wonderful crowd to speak to, and after some insightful questions I was asked to demonstrate some of the tips and techniques I had covered on the patients we saw in the afternoon scanning sessions.
I was especially fascinated to watch the residents working so closely with one another – with 3-4 residents often present in the same scan, they would routinely help each other to optimise their scan images and exchange advice and knowledge in helping to come to a clinical diagnosis. I’d never seen training done this way, having mostly only ever seen 1:1 training at the bedside. It seemed to me to be a very useful way of pooling everyone’s collective experience to empower faster learning – a very effective tool that enabled these residents to learn complex radiology techniques in a short space of time.
‘I learned more than I could possibly have imagined’
In two weeks of working closely with the team, I had seen; experienced; taught and learned more than I could have possibly imaged when I had been busy preparing to fly out. The residents were really knowledgeable and fantastic teachers, allowing me to observe scans that I would never normally have the opportunity to see in my clinical practice in the UK. I went to teach the ultrasound that was familiar to me; but came back having discovering opportunities to learn and grow as a sonographer as well. I will forever be thankful to the radiology team of Black Lion Hospital; RAD-AID and the CoR for this fantastic journey.
I would encourage anyone who is interested in radiology advancement and education to get involved, to volunteer some time if possible and take part in a project that could really enhance your professional development and offer something completely different!
For more information on RAD-AID and its work, please visit: https://www.rad-aid.org/
For more information on the RAD-AID/CoR fellowship program, visit: https://www.sor.org/
By Andrew Pellew-Nabbs
Vascular Ultrasound, Warrington & Halton Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, UK