Providence global exchange program supports physician training and healthcare resources in Malawi

A unique program coordinated by Providence Global Programs sends Providence family medicine residents to Malawi, where they work in a rural hospital and health centers.

On October 17, caregivers from around the Providence family of organizations gathered virtually and in person to learn more about and celebrate a unique medical exchange initiative. The Malawi Bi-Directional Clinical Training Program, which is jointly organized and coordinated by Providence Global Programs and the Swedish First Hill Family Medicine Residency Program, brings young physicians from the Republic of Malawi to Seattle for training in family medicine and sends family medicine residents from across the Providence system to work in a rural district hospital in Mangochi, Malawi and some surrounding health centers. The program is in its sixth year.

The Republic of Malawi is a nation of over 20 million people located in southeastern Africa. According to USAID, investments in public health there have increased life expectancy and maternal and child survival rates, as well as improvements in preventive care and infectious disease treatment, but the nation’s health care infrastructure still faces major challenges, including an acute shortage of healthcare workers.

Hospital signs in Malawi's rural Mangochi district, where residents from family medicine residents from across Providence are helping train local doctors to help improve medical care and strengthen Malawi's healthcare infrastructure. Above: Malawian participants in the Malawi Bi-Directional Clinical Training Program, which is organized and coordinated by Providence Global Programs. 

Nwando Anyaoku, M.D., chief health equity officer at Swedish, provided opening remarks at the event, emphasizing how the program breaks away from the traditional model of charitable care.

“Previously the international model or mission has been to go care for people and then leave without leaving behind the skills for capacity building,” said Dr. Anyaoku. “This changes that.”

Swedish caregivers joining Dr. Anyaoku on the event’s program were Anna McDonald, M.D., of Swedish Family Medicine, who coordinates Swedish’s participation in the program, Colin Schenk, associate program director of the Swedish Addiction Medicine Fellowship, and Elizabeth Wako, M.D., interim president and CEO of Swedish Health Services, who gave the closing remarks. The evening’s guests of honor were the current group of Malawian exchange participants Serah Msimuko, MMed Ian Matandika, MMed and Makkawi Elnour, MMed

Leaders from across the Providence family of organizations at the October 17 celebration of the unique bi-directional exchange program that helps train and educate Malawian physicians and their American counterparts. 

“We are not just sending doctors to have an interesting experience,” said Carrie Schonwald, MSW, MPA, director of global programs at Providence, who went on to explain the program’s unique infrastructure that ensures that the exchange offers a true benefit to Malawian clinicians and patients.

Dr. McDonald highlighted the importance of the program’s consistency in providing support for Malawi’s clinicians and patients.

“This work is much more impactful when you can go back to the same clinics over and over again,” she said.

Since 2017, Providence Global Programs has partnered with Kamuzu University of Health Sciences and Seed Global Health to support growing the base of practicing family physicians in Malawi as well as improving healthcare infrastructure. The primary pillars of the partnership include faculty support; infrastructural support, including funding devices and training for point of care ultrasound and training simulation facilities; as well as water, hygiene and sanitation improvement programs through Catholic Relief Services.

In their remarks, the Malawian registrars, or medical residents, shared their experiences, what drew them to the program and their hopes for the future.

 Dr. Serah Msimuko emphasized the lifesaving importance of resources in providing medical care.

“There are times when my presence will save a life just because I have my skills and knowledge, not just because I tell people what to do,” she said. “But then there are times when my presence will not stop a bad outcome. I have the power, but I don’t have the resources to work with a patient.”

Dr. Msimuko also shared a story about how a handheld VScan, (handheld ultrasound device) provided by Providence Global Programs did, indeed support her ability to save a life.

Dr. Wako, during her closing remarks, shared her great pride in the participants, the program and Providence’s continuing support for global health programs.

“I learned so much. I’m incredibly honored to hear your stories. You (our Malawian exchange participants) have given us so much more than we have given you. I’m incredibly grateful for that,” said Dr. Wako. “One of the best things about Providence is our mission, which is our vision of health for a better world. I’m incredibly proud of us as an organization that we are able to fund a program like this at this scale.”

Learn more about this unique program

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Watch video: October 17 celebration of Malawi Bi-Directional Clinical Training Program

About Providence

Providence is a nonprofit provider of healthcare services in the Western United States, and is headquartered in Renton, Washington. Providence’s Well Being Trust is a national foundation dedicated to advancing mental, social and spiritual well-being.

About Providence Swedish

Providence Swedish has served the Puget Sound region since the first Providence hospital opened in Seattle in 1877 and the first Swedish hospital opened in 1910. The two organizations affiliated in 2012 and today comprise the largest health care delivery system in Western Washington, with 22,000 caregivers, eight hospitals and 244 clinics. A not-for-profit family of organizations, Providence Swedish provides more than $406 million in community benefit in the Puget Sound Region each year. The health system offers a comprehensive range of services and specialty and subspecialty care in a number of clinical areas, including cancer care, cardiovascular health, neurosciences, orthopedics, digestive health and women’s and children’s care. 

About Providence Global Programs

Providence Global Programs enhances global health equity by partnering with local health systems and mission-aligned NGOs, creating opportunities for our caregivers to serve, mentor, and learn.

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