By Karla Zadnik, OD, PhD
College of Optometry
By Mary Jo Burkhard, DVM, PhD
Ohio State College of Veterinary Medicine
I had the privilege of facilitating a 1.5 day workshop for stakeholders committed to the control and eradication of rabies in Ethiopia. We had approximately 70 registrants including representatives from a number of agencies such as the Ethiopian Health and National Research Institute (EHNRI), Federal Ministries, Center for Disease Control (CDC); partners including conservation, environmental, research and vaccine development groups, as well as a host of faculty and students from the University of Gondor, Addis Ababa University, and The Ohio State University.
While not everyone could make it for all of the sessions on both days, we had 45-60 participants in each session which demonstrated the importance of rabies control in Ethiopia. Particularly when you consider that the session was held on a regional campus approximately 23 km outside of downtown Addis Ababa that required navigation through substantial traffic!
We utilized a very powerful workshop format that we at the College of Veterinary Medicine like to call “Focus Forward.” This format included overview presentations, facilitated small group discussions, identification of common recommendations by a “theme team,” and prioritized voting through participant clickers. Dr. Tamiru Berhanu, a veterinarian and lecturer at the University of Gondor (UOG), served as one of our small group facilitators. Dr. Tamiru Berhanu is one of the partners for the rabies collaborations between the University of Gondar and Ohio State. I learned that in Ethiopia, it is common to refer to doctors by their first name, so Dr. Berhanu rapidly became known to me as Dr. Tamiru. Once I figured out the Ethiopian way of addressing people, it became a lot less confusing to sort through our excel spreadsheets of the participant list!
We had four main topics to cover in the workshop: surveillance and reporting, how to identify people exposed to rabies and develop standards for immediate care of bite wounds, controlling rabies in the dogs and other animals, and education for both urban and rural areas. During the breakout sessions, diverse teams of experts discussed these critical topics. One of the strongest themes that arose in all of the sessions was the need to include traditional Ethiopian healers in the process by combining culturally-accepted, traditional methods of treatment and training of traditional healers with rabies vaccination programs and current medical treatments for bite wound care.
Even though I spent nearly all of my time in the workshop rooms, I learned a lot about Ethiopian culture just from listening to the discussions and hearing the recommendations. However, I am also looking forward to seeing more of Addis Ababa over the next couple of days now that the conference is over and personally experiencing more of the Ethiopian culture!
By Ally Sterman
Student, Ohio State College of Veterinary Medicine
After a week of traveling around the Gondar region, our travels brought us to a city named Bahar Dar. Here is where the Nile River begins, Lake Tana (the largest lake in Ethiopia) is located, and the Blue Nile Falls are located. Our partners wanted to show us what a traditional Ethiopian dance club looked like, so after dinner we headed out on what would be one of the most memorable nights of my life.
We arrived at the club and there was a small stage with four musicians. They were playing a few traditional Ethiopian instruments and a few modern ones like the electric keyboard. The more traditional instruments included a kraar, which is five- or six-stringed bowl-shaped lyre. There was also a masenqo which is a one-stringed lyre. The instruments supported the vocalists who came out and sang a variety of songs.
However, the highlight of the evening was the dancing. One set of dancers were two brothers who we had seen dance before in Gondar. During one of their songs they grabbed Laura (another student working on the rabies project) and took her up on stage to dance. After another few songs, a different dancer came out. We had the chance to watch him for a short period of time before he danced over to where we sitting. He again grabbed Laura and tied her to him, and then grabbed my hand. The two of us were pulled on stage to dance in front of everyone. Another gentlemen from Israel was also grabbed and brought on stage. Laura and I soon found ourselves being tied together to have a dance-off (pictured left). This style of dancing is not quite what my years of dance had prepared me for but I tried anyways. After a few minutes it was over and we headed back to join the rest of the group. Our partners were proud of us going up there, though it was clear our dancing skills left something to be desired and more practice is definitely necessary. This was one of my most embarrassing experiences yet here in Ethiopia, but also my most memorable.
By Timothy Landers, RN, PhD
Ohio State College of Nursing
I was on Skype with my Mom during our last week in Gondar. Back in Columbus, she was telling me about the new washer and dryer that arrived while I was in Ethiopia. The two were installed six inches apart. They are finding that this is just enough space for things to fall down and get lodged perfectly. It sounds like a hassle.
Then, they asked me what I thought it would feel like to go back home to Columbus.
I said I didn’t think I could go completely back home.
Of course, I have missed my wife and my sons Joey and Brian. I am looking forward to seeing my friends and sleeping in my own bed. I have missed our cat and dog.
But there are plenty of other things I have not missed. I have not missed how I let my day get off to a bad start because it took three extra minutes to park. I am not looking forward to returning home and obsessing about the invasive thistle plant messing up our lawn. I have not missed the conversations about washers and dryers in our air-conditioned homes that are six inches too far apart.
These things seem important to us – but I can see now, they are not.
I have no right to complain about a three minute parking spot hunt to the woman I saw in the asthma clinic who had wheezed and walked for three hours to get to her 9 a.m. appointment.
I promise not to complain about the thistle growing in my back yard. I’ve learned that because it grows so well in almost any condition, it is an ideal forage food for work animals in the Ethiopian mountains.
Finally, I pledge to think of my new friend and colleague, Charles Turner, who told me about mango fly larvae burrowing under the skin when clothes are hung out to dry. I will think about his stories from his adventures teaching nurses all over Africa the next time I agonize over whether to pick “Whites – hot” or “permanent press – cold” on the washing machine.
And if that fails, I’ve asked my friends to give me a good smack upside the head.
Or, I’ll think of my friends in Ethiopia.