Physicians’ Strike in Tanzania Doesn’t Deter Encore Volunteer
By Susan Stine on Thursday, April 19th, 2012
A nationwide physician’s strike didn’t stop Encore Volunteer, Dr. Mike Thomas, from helping the Medical Association of Tanzania (MAT) reach an important milestone. Thanks to support from Jhpiego, an affiliate of Johns Hopkins University, NPCA recruited and supported Mike to spend six weeks in Tanzania through Encore Service Corps International.
For the past several years MAT had been trying to build consensus on a proposed method to promote Continuing Professional Development (CPD) of all health care professionals in Tanzania. Mike’s fresh perspective on the situation turned out to be the catalyst needed to allow MAT to finalize and implement its CPD Award System. The program incentives health care professionals to attended professional events in order to gain points towards receiving an award recognizing them for their efforts in continuing their medical education. By encouraging professional development and tracking participants, the CPD Award System is able to address two critical issues affecting health care in Tanzania: 1. Medical licenses cannot be revoked, and 2. The number of doctors in Tanzania is unknown – estimates put the number of doctors between 1,000 and 3,000 for a population of 35 million.
During Mike’s tenure – just six weeks – he was able to create a booklet about the CPD Award System, and have said booklet and a two city pilot program approved at a stakeholder’s meeting. Final approval for nationwide implementation is anticipated at the November annual meeting of the Medical Association of Tanzania – only six months from when Mike arrived in Tanzania! Also, already over 20 organizations have been approved to issue accreditation including government agencies and several of Tanzania’s universities.
When Mike arrived in Tanzania he encountered many people who were hesitant to move forward with the CPD Award System, especially while physicians were on strike. But once Mike was able to talk with individuals one-on-one, he found that “people’s resistance melted away.” It turned out that most Tanzanians are reluctant to provide criticism in large meetings, and are much more open and accepting discussing issues in less formal settings. Mike considers his ability to recognize this cultural distinction as being critical towards his success in creating a consensus on the CPD Award System.
MAT staff and Jhpiego were also instrumental in making the CPD Award System a reality. MAT staff were welcoming, and Jhpiego provided crucial funding, transportation, and even meeting space. In particular Mike is thankful for the support of former MAT president Dr. Edith Ngirwamungu and Dr. Akwila Temu of Jhpiego, who arranged and participated in meetings with Mike and local stakeholders, and developed much of the CPD Award System. Overall, Mike found his first time in Tanzania to be “heart warming.” Although he is happy to be enjoying spring in the US after weeks of 90°F and 85% humidity!
NPCA’s Encore program recruits and supports skilled volunteers to assist with capacity-building projects with partners in East Africa. Learn more about other open volunteer opportunities on the Encore website.