Introducing our new Uganda telemedicine program

August 21, 2019 – Last week we officially launched our telemedicine program in Uganda. Our first lecture was given by Dr. Noel Strong, Maternal-fetal medicine specialist and Saving Mothers medical board member.

Dr. Strong gave the lecture in her New York City office at 8 a.m. EST before starting her clinical duties for the day. The lecture was transmitted via Skype to an audience of 8 midwives and community health workers listening at the HOLD Uganda office in Kamuli. The seven-hour time difference meant that the midwives were attending the lecture at 3 p.m. EAT (Eastern Africa Time). 

This first lecture’s topic was placental abruption, a condition commonly associated with preeclampsia. Dr. Strong described this medical condition and walked the midwives through a typical presentation, how to make a diagnosis, and how to treat this condition. Dr. Strong then talked through 2 cases in which a woman presented with signs of placental abruption, asking the midwives how they’d be able to recognize the signs and what they’d do next. To engage learning, Dr. Strong listed the same series of true or false questions on the condition before and after giving the lecture, and asked for a show of hands to see how much the lecture affected the students’ knowledge of the topic. 

“This is a great way to continue the work that we do at Saving Mothers without being on the ground. We can continue our mission of improving health education and providing continued support to our partners by using this simple technology that everyone has.” – Dr. Strong

Global medicine is not without its challenges: there were Internet connection difficulties during this first test lecture and it was sometimes hard to hear what the students were saying. In our past Saving Mothers trip to Kamuli, volunteers noted that the Internet difficulties were sometimes connected to electrical power outages, which is to be expected in a low resource setting. But apart from the anticipated logistical difficulties, this first lecture was a success simply because it happened. 

Our Saving Mothers Research Fellow Ijanae Holman-Allgood will be coordinating this new series of telemedicine lectures, and she feels positive: “This is exciting, and all the students seem eager to take part,” she says. Telemedicine allows skilled medical professionals like Dr. Strong to share their knowledge with healthcare providers halfway around the world. So though international medical education can be challenging, the payoff of sharing valuable health information that might otherwise be inaccessible to our international partners is extremely rewarding. 

The Uganda telemedicine program will continue twice a month, with physicians from our Saving Mothers medical board, as well as volunteer physicians within the community, giving case-based lectures on various topics about healthy and high-risk pregnancy. Planned upcoming topics include ultrasound diagnostics, prenatal care, gestational diabetes, and handling obstetric complications such as preterm or prolonged labor, preeclampsia, and postpartum hemorrhage. 

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