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East Africa Initiative: Improving Lung Health in Ethiopia


The East Africa Initiative is training the first lung health specialists in Ethiopia: despite high incidence of disease, there are currently no chest physicians in this region.

Ethiopia is the second largest country in Africa, with a population of 83 million people, and ranks in the bottom 15 in terms of gross domestic product (GDP) per capita. Diseases such as tuberculosis (TB), acute respiratory infections, chronic obstructive lung disease, lung cancer, and asthma are major public health problems in Ethiopia. Rates of acute respiratory infections are among the highest in the world and rates of asthma, COPD and lung cancer are rising. The burden of chronic lung disease (especially in women) due to exposure to indoor air pollution and outdoor air pollution is substantial and troubling.

In response, in 2012, World Lung Foundation created a Pulmonary Medicine Fellowship Program, an initiative to train the first generation of lung health specialists in Ethiopia. In partnership with the Addis Ababa University and the Ethiopian Ministry of Health, the program will yield up to 10 graduates by 2015 and is expected to become self-sustaining within five years. 

Fellows undergo a rigorous program of chest medicine, designed by WLF and Addis Ababa University, with content specifically tailored to local hospitals and the population. Fellows will spend 24 months pursuing in-patient clinical rotations supervised by the faculty and will participate in weekly outpatient clinics. Upon graduation, the Fellows will have achieved the status of qualified pulmonary physicians based on standards set by leading American and European academic pulmonary divisions. 

The Pulmonary Medicine Fellowship Program and physician salaries are being funded by World Lung Foundation, the Swiss Lung Foundation and the Ministry of Health, Ethiopia. The program has recruited faculty from leading American pulmonary training programs, including Columbia University, Brown University, New York University, Emory University, and the Mount Sinai School of Medicine. Rotating faculty will be physically present in Ethiopia throughout the duration of the program. 

A recent report from the World Bank, entitled “Ethiopia: Improving Health Service Delivery,” notes that in efforts to improve health care delivery and outcomes “the key constraint was the lack of specialized doctors” to provide basic services at the primary and secondary care level. There is only one public sector lung health specialist in Ethiopia and this lack of specialist physicians is a significant obstacle to reducing morbidity and mortality from these diseases. 

Dr. Neil Schluger, Chief Scientific Officer, World Lung Foundation, directs the program. Dr. Schluger is also Chief, Division of Pulmonary, Allergy, and Critical Care Medicine and Professor of Medicine, Epidemiology, and Environmental Health Sciences at Columbia University in New York.

The Co-director of the program is Dr. Jane Carter, Associate Professor of Medicine at the Warren Alpert School of Medicine of Brown University, and Director of the Brown Kenya Program.


  • Professor of Medicine, Environmental Health Sciences and Epidemiology at the Columbia University Medical Center