Thirty Kenyan medical students left the University of Nairobi in October 2011. Though traveling by land, their purpose held all the consequence of a maiden voyage.
The 30 students represented the school’s first investment in enriching medical education through clinical experiences in less-populated areas. If this sounds familiar, it is because Nairobi is tacking to a course begun 40 years ago at the University of Washington: the WWAMI program, a five-state partnership in medical education.
Almost immediately, the Kenyan students’ feedback was validating.
“It’s fantastic. They say this is giving them real, hands-on experiences that they’re not able to get at Kenyatta National Hospital, the main tertiarycare hospital,” says Carey Farquhar, M.D., Res. ’97, MPH, Fel. ’03. Farquhar is a UW associate professor in the departments of medicine, epidemiology and global health.
“I just found out they’re having weekly, case-based discussions through distance learning. They connect the four sites — in Garissa, Naivasha, Mbagathi and Mombasa — on a video conference, and one of the sites presents a case, which is then discussed by the students and a faculty member at the University of Nairobi,” she says.
Farquhar has been integral to the university’s vision: expanding clinical training beyond the capitol. She and the University of Nairobi’s Dr. James Kiarie (a UW affiliate associate professor in global health and epidemiology) are principal investigators of a $9.5 million grant that supports that goal.
Over two weeks in May 2011, Farquhar was on point when a delegation of Nairobi medical-school leaders visited for an immersion in the WWAMI program, the immensely fruitful partnership of UW Medicine and the states of Washington, Wyoming, Alaska, Montana and Idaho. A core WWAMI tenet is that medical students need to learn medicine where it is practiced — in the community, not just in academic hospital settings.