Knowledge has no bounderies - teacher exchange

The Study programme in Medicine has four ongoing Linnaeus-Palme (LP) funded collaborations with universities in Ethiopia, Malawi, India and Ecuador. Part of the collaboration involves teacher exchange.

Dr. Tamara Phiri from University of Malawi and Prof. Damen from Addis Ababa University in Ethiopia visited KI in December 2018. During three weeks they were involved in courses, visiting clinics and meeting with people in the hospitals and at the university to share experiences and knowledge. Upon their return we asked them to reflect upon their stays.

Linnaeus-Palme is an international exchange programme that aims to stimulate cooperation between higher education institutions in Sweden and in low- and middle income countries. Five of Karolinska Institutet’s study programmes are actively participating. botanist Carl von Linné or Linnaeus who in the 16th century sent out his students in the world to bring back knowledge. The Palme-scholars are those who come to Sweden and are named after Olof Palme, the Swedish priminister who had a strong interest in supporting developing countries. 

Dr Tamara Phiri

Dr Phiri is a physician and clinical lecturer at the Department of Internal Medicine at Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital in Blantyre, Malawi. She did her undergraduate training in Malawi and also trained as a physician in Malawi and partly in South Africa. She has been involved in teaching medical students for the past 7 years.

What were your expectations on the exchange?

My expectations were to have an experience observing how medical education was being delivered in a setting other than my own and also experiencing teaching undergraduate and postgraduate students in a setting different from where I currently work.

Have these expectations been met? In what way?

My expectations have been met. A lot of my learning was mainly through observation on how patient care was delivered and how students were taught - I had many opportunities to observe by sitting in during clinic consultations or just observing what was going on in the wards. Secondly, I had a wide variety of “groups” to give talks to at KI - medical students, masters students, infectious diseases residents and consultants - which gave me a feel of how different the interactions were with the different audiences.

I also attended a course on medical education which was a bonus during my stay. I am currently involved in work on medical education and have been in similar trainings in the past. It was reassuring to see that what I had already learned was similar to what is being taught elsewhere.

What experiences or knowledge have you shared with KI students and teachers?

The key thing I have shared with KI students and teachers is how to be practical in your teaching and patient care when you have few resources at your disposal. Rather than feeling trapped by the circumstances or simply copying and pasting from standard medical texts written in high-resource settings, working with few resources teaches you to become creative, efficient and to maximise on what you have. And lastly that there is still plenty of good you can do that does not require high tech or expensive solutions.

What has made the greatest impression on you during the visit?

I was struck by the attention to detail almost everywhere I went. KI is designed for learning and there has been a lot of thought and obviously investment made into how best to deliver learning and also making sure the environment is optimal for both learners and teachers.

The various and numerous lecture rooms are well designed for their purpose, the numerous and varied conference and meeting rooms I sat in are also well designed for purpose. I suppose that is something we could learn from how to make your learning and working space better to achieve the intended purpose.

Throughout the visit I was also impressed with how knowledge has no boundaries. Even though I come from a very different setting, I followed very well and was up to date on key developments in medicine just like everyone I met and interacted with at KI simply because I have access to updates and recent medical knowledge and key medical informants on social media and books that the rest of the medical world is reading. The fact that knowledge is universal and knowledge sharing is now better globally than it has been in the past was very reassuring.

The fact that knowledge is universal and knowledge sharing is now better globally than it has been in the past was very reassuring.

Prof. Damen Haile Mariam

Prof. Damen Haile Mariam is a health economist and teacher at the College of Health Sciences, Addis Ababa University. Formerly Chair of Community Health as well as Associate Dean for Graduate programs within the College of Health Sciences.

What were your expectations on the exchange?

Of course, as the main aim of the programme is promoting cooperation between my institution. In addition, I have expected to provide seminars and get involved in the teaching-learning process; and visit clinical teaching and service delivery at KI.

Furthermore, I have also expected to broaden my global perspective in terms of being exposed to the socio-cultural and physical environment of Sweden.

Have these expectations been met? In what way?

My main expectation is met in terms of initiating and forging collaboration with KI. For instance, I have initiated a collaboration between the KI and Addis Ababa University in the area of pediatrics residency and fellowship programs. I am also in continuing collaboration with Dr. Lars Smedman (LP-coordinator for Ethiopia) on revitalizing the student exchange program in the area of pediatrics and community health.

Some of the students I met at the Global Health Case Seminar also have shown interest in getting me involved in a structured global health program that they are planning to develop next year.

I was also able to make few visits to - a rural part of Sweden in the South and to the border between Sweden and Finland (trip on a cruise ship) and thereby witness the country's landscape as well as what farming looks like in the country. I have also attended a mass in a local church in the countryside and St. Lucia's celebration at KI's main campus.

What experiences or knowledge have you shared with KI students and teachers?

In the clinical teaching for medical students in the pediatrics round, I was able to share the Ethiopian perspective on how patients are diagnosed and treated - with the various cases that were being dealt by the students during my visit to their rounds.

In the Case Seminar in Global Health, I was able to contribute in the areas of:

  • Planning different activities within a rural health center
  • Data requirements and sources of data for planning
  • Statistical techniques for generating vital indicators and service targets
  • Concepts and steps in community diagnosis and development of health action plan for catchment populations
  • Responding to questions from the students regarding available resources and methods for situation analysis and identification of major health problems that need to be addressed within a rural health center and catchment communities

What has made the greatest impression on you during the visit?

My major impression during my visit pertain to the impact of differences in resources and technology on the modalities of teaching and service delivery (when I compare how we teach and deliver services in Ethiopia with that of what I witnessed at KI) and the dominance of females in all spheres of society in Sweden (including church services).

Content reviewer:
Emma Hägg