"Tororo General Hospital is the referral hospital for the entire district. Internet access is extremely limited there, and access to medical textbooks or other resources was nonexistent."





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Interview with Dr. Veronica Ades

WiRED Board Member Allison Kozicharow recently interviewed Dr. Veronica Ades about her experience delivering a donated laptop and CHI e-library to Tororo General Hospital in Uganda. We hope you will enjoy Dr. Ades' answers below:


A.K. Where did you place the WiRED International Community Health Information (CHI) e-library?
V.A. The library was donated to Tororo General Hospital, which is the district hospital of Tororo, Uganda. Tororo is a town in north eastern Uganda, near the Kenyan border. Tororo General Hospital is the referral hospital for the entire district. Internet access is extremely limited there, and access to medical textbooks or other resources was nonexistent.
A.K. What were people's reactions when you first switched on the computer and introduced the CHI modules?
V.A. I'll first start with how this idea arose. When I was working there, I kept a blog about my experiences, and I specifically talked a lot about the limited resources. Chris Spirito, who I know from a volunteer project that we collaborated on in Boston when I was getting my M.P.H., wrote to me and asked how he could be of help. I know Chris has fantastic computer skills, so I approached the Senior Hospital Administrator, a wonderful man named Amos Oboke. Amos was thrilled with Chris' offer, as it just so happens that the hospital had been asked to create a website, but didn't have the resources or knowledge to do so. So Chris organized a team to create it using content that Amos and I sent him, and made a great website. In addition, Chris and I had discussed the extremely limited resources and lack of opportunity for continuing medical education of the staff, so he offered to send over the WiRED library on laptops.

When I brought the laptops, Amos and the whole staff were thrilled and very grateful. We convened a hospital-wide staff meeting, and I explained how to use the programs. Because not everyone is computer-literate, I had to be careful to demonstrate the process very well. We went through a module (I believe the malaria module was of particular interest, since the malaria rate in this area is extremely high), and the reactions were very positive. People really responded to the simple format with clear language, to the graphics, and especially to the quiz questions. When a question would come on screen, everyone would discuss it and debate it, and then come up with a collective answer. It was a great way to engage the crowd.

Many of the staff at the hospital are eager to learn more and improve their knowledge base, and I think they were very happy to have access to a new learning tool.
A.K. How do you envision the CHI library will be used at Tororo General Hospital, both short and long term?
V.A. It is my hope that the library would be used in two ways. One, as continuing medical education—so that people would come and pick a subject they want to learn more about and increase their knowledge base. And two, as a specific reference tool—for example, if a specific case comes up and they want to know how to diagnose or treat the patient, they can go and look it up.

I thought it was especially helpful how clear the language was, and how engaging the design was.
A.K. What are your thoughts about expanding WiRED's healthcare e-library concept in Tanzania and future needs?
V.A. I think continuing medical education (CME) is still a very new concept, but also very welcome. People are eager for more knowledge and access to useful tools. I think expansion of the WiRED library will have to go hand in hand with instruction on computer literacy, because a surprising number of people have little or no experience with computers. For example, none of the midwives I worked with have an email account, or know how to get one. However, I also see the WiRED library format as very valuable, because it eliminates the need for books, which are heavy, difficult to transport, and rapidly become obsolete. Internet access in rural Africa is also improving, and as it does, the ability to update software and transmit more data will improve. I think this makes WiRED's model increasingly valuable in the developing world.
A.K. Can you tell us a little more about yourself and your organization?
V.A. I was actually in Tororo to do clinical research as part of my fellowship at UCSF (University of California San Francisco), but my clinical work was entirely independent and voluntary. I got a Ugandan medical license and practiced as a volunteer ob/gyn. While I was there, I worked with a couple of other doctors who passed through to raise money for the hospital to buy permanent useful medical tools, like an oxygen concentrator, and aprons and boots for the midwives to wear during deliveries.

Tororo General Hospital Women's Clinic

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