Radiologists Engaging the Community: Communicating the Value of Ultrasound in Rural Uganda
With the scent of charcoal and exhaust lingering in the hot air and the piercing equatorial sunshine in my eyes, it was difficult to see the expressions on faces in the crowd, but I knew they were keenly interested. We came to speak with the fifty-plus group of village health leaders from Nawanyago subcounty in central Uganda. Typically found in darkened reading rooms interpreting studies and speaking with consulting physicians over the telephones, it may be difficult to imagine radiologists in the steaming sunshine delivering public health information to a crowd of enthusiastic health personnel but this is exactly what Imaging the World is doing throughout Uganda. The role of the radiologist is changing in profound ways throughout the modern medical system. In America, radiologists are interpreting a higher volume of studies while acting further as clinical consultants. Although radiologists are working with patients in an ever-increasing capacity, I never could have imagined the opportunities presented through Imaging the World. The obstetrical imaging programs already in place are impacting women throughout the country, allowing for safe deliveries where uncertainty and high-risk were previously the norm. In addition, the forthcoming breast imaging and treatment program is an incredible step in a nation where care is at best fragmented for rural women, and at worst non-existent.
The first, last, and dare-I-say most important, step of large scale health programs is educating the local citizens and healthcare workers about the program. Potential patients need to know how this program can be of benefit to them, which often includes basic healthcare education regarding the targeted disease. For the obstetrical imaging programs, we used community outreach programs and radio messages to reach our targeted population. The breast imaging and treatment program will be more challenging due to the lack of knowledge among the population regarding breast cancer and this is how I found myself standing before the group of enthusiastic village health leaders. As the group eagerly asked questions regarding our upcoming program, two things began to grow in certainty in my mind: that the success of the program is all but ensured with such eager village health leaders, and that my career in radiology was going to be very different than I could have ever imagined.
-Chris Duncan is a fourth year medical student at University of Vermont who recently matched into radiology.