Today is my 6th month anniversary of my arrival in Ethiopia. It only seems fitting to dedicate today’s post to the group of people that make my life fun, exciting and fulfilling: Our ENT Team.
When I visited in November of 2017, it only took 48 hours to fall in love with the team. Which is good because thats how long I was there. But when I returned home, the rest of my fellowship was dominated by the thoughts of joining this amazing group of motivated, passionate people. And, now that I’m 6 months in, I have no doubt that this will be the best team I will ever work with (no offense to any future team I work with).
As a small thank you to the team, I had new white coats made with their names sewn in. The residents also designed a concept for a team logo. I passed this idea along to a good friend of mine, Mariah, who was able to customize the design. I then handed it off to my mother (she has all types of cool skills) who made the wonderful final touches. Now its attached as a patch on the sides of the white coat. This may seem snobby, but I wanted to inject a sense of pride into the group and I think having our own logo is pretty cool.
Anyways, I’d like to take the rest of this blog to introduce the team to our readers and I’ll start with the Seniors. To clarify, here the attendings are called seniors not to be confused with senior residents.
Yilkal is the chair of the department. He has been running the ENT department at Ayder for the past 7/8 years. He is a fearless and selfless leader that gives all the energy he has to make this department great. He is the first to say that there are knowledge and skill gaps that need to be filled and he was a huge advocate for my transition here. His humility is an ability that we all should strive to master. Most doctors won’t allow their ego to drop and admit they can improve. Yilkal’s ability to do so is the catalyst for rapid growth and he does it was a gentle smile and playful demeanor. Without him, this opportunity wouldn’t exist for me and I am forever grateful to him. After his ENT residency in Egypt and practicing for a few years, he left for Senegal for a Head and Neck Cancer Fellowship. He pushes himself to be the best clinician possible. Apart from that, he and his lovely wife have essentially adopted me and go way out of their way to keep me fed, happy and safe. There’s no way I could ever repay their kindness.
Beti joined Mekelle a few years ago and is a stellar physician. She has a special ability to make things happen and is currently receiving special fellowship training in Otology. She will be a stellar leader. We have done some massive cases together and she seems to enjoy every second of it, as do I.
Medhanie came next and is also in the otology fellowship. He cares deeply about his patients and the residents. He is one of the sweetest guys I know and always greets me with a huge hug. He’s shown an interest in endoscopic nasal surgery and I’ve been mentoring him here as much as I can. Its a pleasure working with him.
For the next 6 months, I want to do a better job of booking cases with them each week so I get some more one-on-one time.
We will be gaining 2 more seniors over the next 6 months and I’m excited to see just how awesome this department can get.
Now, although I really do love the seniors, the vast majority of my time is spent with the residents. To understand the program a little more, let me explain. 2 years ago, Ayder started an ENT residency. 4 brave individuals joined. About 9 months later, 4 more were added. About 3 months ago, another 4 were added for a total of 12 residents. We call them R1, R2 and R3s even though their years slightly overlap.
Beginning with the R3s. From left to right. Seid, Dessalegn (AKA Chula), Fili and Andom.
These guys are my rocks. They’ve been here long enough to understand the system and they are my go-to for anything. As just beginning 3rd year residents, I’d put their intelligence and clinical intuition against any PGY5 in the states. In the OR, clinic or the streets of Mekelle, I always want one of these guys by my side.
The R2s: Ibrahim, Tekleweini, Bini and Nati.
You can tell from their smiles that they are just an absolute pleasure to be around. This batch shares the combination of kindness and intelligence that will make them ideal clinicians. Helping them bridge the gap between their clinical knowledge and its application is one of the most gratifying things I’ve ever been a part of. Their thirst for knowledge is intoxicating and I love watching them grow in front of my eyes.
The R1s: Mohammed, Haben, Gebrewahd (I call him “G”), and Martha
Although I’ve only had a couple months with them, they already feel like family. Since their arrival, I’ve pushed them extremely hard. They are responsible for rounds, seeing every patient and presenting them. Any consult that comes in, I demand a full H&P. I’ve had them all learn ultrasound techniques and how to read radiology. I always challenge them on their diagnoses and push them to create clinical plans of action. On top of this, they have to learn the ways of a new institution and what it means to be a resident. Despite this pressure, they are calm and collected. They take ownership over their patients and have been doing a wonderful job. Many visitors from the states are dumbfounded when I tell them that these guys are fresh R1s, months into their training.
All together these residents are the lifeblood of the program and I couldn’t be more proud of what we are creating together.
As the following pictures show, we are a ridiculous bunch and although we take our clinical lives seriously, we actually enjoy being together. When I was gone for a week with my family recently, I felt homesick for their company. They are all wonderful people and I am SO lucky that they have included me in their journey.
It seriously took G 5 mins to realize that everyone was looking at Mohammed’s selfie and not his.
Medhanie thought it artistic to take a picture of the picture taker during the picture. Yilkal seems confused as Fili takes a quick nap. Beti and Seid had to send a text and Martha was bored.
G looks like he is signing to us. He wasn’t, but I bet he has a wonderful voice.
Bini wheeled a stable trauma patient from the ER all the way to our clinic just so he could ultrasound his neck. The stretcher couldn’t even fit all the way into the room. I had to take a picture.
Seid and Ibrahim performing a 3-handed endoscopic laryngeal surgery on a child with a supraglottic plexiform neurofibroma. I’m pretty sure I’ll never write that sentence again in my lifetime.
Fili and Bini were getting artistic with the photography during a particularly dangerous cancer case. The concentration from myself, Yilkal, Andom and Ibrahim is pretty intense.
Trying to organize a selfie with this crew is impossible; this was the best I could get.
Its amazing how still Tekle stays during this….He doesn’t even blink. I can see he’s alive from the pulsations on the ultrasound.
This was one of my favorite meals of the past 6 months. My parents and older brother came to visit and absolutely loved the residents.
I thought a picture with the sun in front of us would be a good idea. I was wrong. Sorry guys.
Everyone likes good actions shots…
From our entire family here in Mekelle, thank you so much for following along on our incredible journey.