The ACR Foundation’s Goldberg-Reeder Resident Travel Grant Program facilitates knowledge sharing while assisting patients in low- and middle-income countries. The latest group of award recipients brought their skills, expertise, and energy to Botswana and Nigeria, where they made invaluable connections with local colleagues while working to advance patient care. The Bulletin caught up with the recipients to learn more about their travels, why contributing to global health is critical for radiology, and how relationships are the key to success.
ABASS M. NOOR, MD Botswana
Abass M. Noor, MD, traveled to Princess Marina Hospital in Gaborone, Botswana, as part of a two-pronged mission: as a resident engaged in the global health track at the University of Pennsylvania and as a representative for RAD-AID International. In addition to clinical duties, Noor was helping to lay the groundwork for a residency program in Botswana by establishing a cloud-based PACS that would help larger, more resourced hospitals communicate more effectively with smaller hospitals and healthcare centers throughout the region.
Many of the local hospitals in Botswana do not have on-staff radiologists. Studies are loaded onto disks and sent by courier to the larger district hospitals. The radiologists at those hospitals dictate results and send the disks back, resulting in turnaround times of four weeks or more. Establishing a regional PACS would not only improve patient care by reducing turnaround time but would also provide a system to create and store images and teaching files, which are critical for resident education.
Noor’s trip laid key building blocks for the system. He discovered legal and technical obstacles, like privacy laws and the need for a strong internet service, that RAD-AID would have to overcome to install a PACS. “My time was really spent developing critical relationships with key stakeholders who will be able to help us petition the Botswana Ministry of Health for exemptions that we need to carry out the work,” Noor says. He plans to return on subsequent trips as a RAD-AID representative.
Building relationships with the people of Botswana was also one of Noor’s favorite parts of the trip. “Everywhere I went, I met like-minded people who really understood me on a deeper level,” he says. Noor recounts a friendship that sprung up with a technologist overnight — quite literally. “I spent the night working with him on a CT pelvic scan for a patient, and he immediately invited me to a braai (the South African version of a barbeque) that weekend. We shared an amazing meal together.”
Noor says that the Goldberg-Reeder grant was a key reason he was able to be successful on his trip. “Without the scholarship, there would have been a huge financial burden,” he says. “Radiology is a technology- and resource-heavy field that requires substantial investment in terms of training, so many countries lack needed imaging care. Scholarships like these allow radiologists to help close equity gaps and provide access to quality care.”
ABIOLA FEMI-ABODUNDE, MD Nigeria
For Abiola Femi-Abodunde, MD, a resident at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the journey to Nigeria was a homecoming of sorts. “I was born in Nigeria, grew up in Ghana, and I’ve always wanted to go back there,” she says. Femi-Abodunde planned to travel to University College Hospital in Ibadan, Nigeria, to establish a breast radiologic-pathology correlation conference where pathologists and radiologists could discuss biopsies and examine final pathology results relative to the mammographic findings.
Femi-Abodunde’s work wasn’t easy. After she had built the foundation and scope of the project, the COVID-19 pandemic hit, resulting in the project not being feasible for the timeline desired. “I had to start over,” she says. Femi-Abodunde found a new contact at Lagos University Teaching Hospital in Nigeria, where she ultimately helped organize a virtual radiologic-pathology conference. Ultimately, more than 17 participants — including radiologists, pathologists, and residents — were able to come together to correlate imaging findings with pathology reports. Not only were they able to discuss the results, but they also came together to discuss and improve workflow challenges. “The conference ended up facilitating important communication that resulted in changes to address the different obstacles they discussed,” she says.
Like Noor, the relationships Femi-Abodunde created were the best part for her (although the food was a close second). “It was like going back and connecting with my roots,” Femi-Abodunde explains. “I got to meet a lot of people who, like me, were born in Africa and trained abroad. Like them, I want to come back and practice, so it was really heartening to see them flourishing.” The relationships she forged and her passion for her culture were also key to the project’s success. “It really helped to consider and understand where the faculty was already coming from,” she says. “Cultural context was key.”
Femi-Abodunde’s work in global health isn’t over. “We’re planning on replicating the radiologic-pathology project in another location,” she says. “Diagnostic radiology saves lives, but it costs a lot of resources. It’s imperative to share the resources we have with others and contribute to advancing radiological care all over the world.”