Building an interdisciplinary pain medicine and palliative care program in Ethiopia

Cancer is beginning to eclipse infectious disease as a major cause of mortality in low-to-middle income countries like those in sub-Saharan Africa. In Ethiopia, people with cancer who reach a hospital are diagnosed with advanced disease for which there is little treatment available and practically nothing to stem their unbearable disease-related pain. The Ethiopian government has made cancer treatment a health priority and is investing in new treatment centers and clinical services not previously available, such as radiation oncology. Pain management for cancer patients remains a challenge, as opioid analgesics are hard to come by and clinicians lack the experience to use them.

Ethan Dmitrovsky, M.D., laboratory director of the Frederick National Laboratory for Cancer Research and president of Leidos Biomedical Research, co-authored a commentary published in the Journal of Global Health regarding a pain and palliative care training pilot program in Ethopia. Dr. Salahadin Abdi, M.D., Ph.D., co-author of the piece, founded the program at the Ayder Speciality Hospital in Mekelle, Ethiopia to help meet the urgent need for pain management expertise. Dr. Abdi is chair of the Department of Pain Medicine at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center.

You may read the full commentary here.