An Ethiopian SCOPE fellow travels to the U.S. and learns valuable strategies to support the work he is doing toward effecting change, and improving the health of his country.
Adino’s warm smile was the first thing I saw when we spoke over SKYPE at 6:30 a.m. my time. He graciously forgave me for forgetting that we had gone through daylight savings here in the U.S. and I was an hour behind our agreed upon time. Time is different in Ethiopia, as it is in many places in the world. This is one of the many things I miss about the place. There is fluidity to time in Ethiopia, which is lacking the rigidity I have become so accustomed to in the U.S. So Adino and I began chatting and catching up as I sipped my coffee and he sat by a darkening window as the sun set at the end of his day.
I first met Adino in the summer of 2014 during my time as a SCOPE fellow in Ethiopia. In Amharic Adino’s name means “healer, “ which as you will see is quite appropriate. When we met I quickly caught onto the fact that he was committed to bettering the health of his fellow Ethiopians, and that he had deep, rich Ethiopian Orthodox faith.
Adino grew up in Debark, a sizable town of around 25,000 people located 100 kilometers north of Gondar, where the University of Gondar, and SCOPE’s main hub is located. Debark is the closest town to the Simien Mountains National Park, and is the location of the park headquarters. That is to say it’s stunningly beautiful. Adino shared his childhood with 3 brothers and 2 sisters. He is the third born child in his family. Growing up consisted of a lot of “Playing in the mud, playing soccer, playing with friends and family” as well as helping the family out in a number of ways. Let me just say that Debark’s mud almost stole the shoes off my feet when I visited Adino’s hometown during my time as a SCOPE fellow. I also enjoyed the single best cup of coffee I have ever sipped at the hands of Adino’s brother and sister-in-law who hosted us for a coffee ceremony when we visited. Adino attended school in Debark and graduated with a 12th grade education. Then he set his sights on Gondar.
Before joining the University of Gondar, Adino wanted to study medicine, but landed in public health due to his budding interest in the research side of medicine. After completing his bachelors in public health, Adino was sent to a rural health center 150 km from Bahir Dar to work as a public health professional and try to impact the health of the community there. When I asked Adino how he felt about going to the health center, he responded honestly that at the time he was disappointed. He had not expected to be sent to this rural place, and he was the first health officer to ever set foot in the area. Adino’s face then began to light up as he began to speak about how his experience there surprised him:
“The hospitality was very nice, and they appreciated me more than I expected. They had many, many problems, but they had no access to get medicine. I took that as an opportunity. I saw everything from gynecology clinic, to delivery, to the kids, and everything. The respect from the people when you are there is amazing, because normally they would be referred. I felt a huge sense of helping the community, and the rural farmers. It was a good opportunity for me to serve my people and I still have warm feelings about my time there. It helped me really understand the public health system and the problems in rural areas.”
After his time as a public health officer, Adino returned to Gondar where he continued seeing patients. He followed patients with multi drug resistant tuberculosis (MDRTB), which again had him travelling to the farthest reaches of the region. He visited all the health centers in the region and learned a lot about public health outreach. I can only imagine the ways this work has served as an asset as Adino works with SCOPE to reach out to some of those same areas and deliver much needed services today.
Adino completed his Masters in Public Health at the University of Gondar in 2015. One of his esteemed professors at the university was a former SCOPE fellow, Kefyalew. Adino was one of the best students, and Kefyalew brought him along for some of SCOPE’s work, which eventually led to Adino applying to become a SCOPE fellow himself. When I asked Adino what it was about SCOPE that piqued his interest, it became clear that his experience in the rural areas was informing the way forward for him:
“I am a deacon in my church, so the religious part of SCOPE caught my eye. I have been in the rural areas and seen their suffering. I know what the rural communities are facing, and working with SCOPE would be a good opportunity to continue helping. The religious fathers are very influential. We are using their influence for positive activity. For me, I believe SCOPE makes a difference, and that it is a good strategy.”
Through SCOPE, Adino recently left his beloved Ethiopia for the first time in his life, and travelled to Seattle for three weeks to participate in a short course on Implementation Science. When I asked about his time, his warm smile spread across his face, and he simply responded “wow.” He went on to talk about how cared for he felt. When I asked what surprised him most, he shared that he had not expected much hospitality. He explained by saying the perception of the U.S. in Ethiopia is that people are “very busy, and not very hospitable.” He went on to talk about the meals he enjoyed, and his visits to Mt. Ranier, Boeing Museum of Flight, and Bainbridge Island. It was obvious that the warmth of those involved with SCOPE in the U.S. stunned him.
I asked Adino to share about the importance of the training he received. He talked specifically about how he now understands the methodology behind the FLAME project, which is one of SCOPE’s big projects currently, saying that it became “extremely clear.” More generally he spoke about identifying the “know-do gaps” in Ethiopia. He talked about all of the observational research conducted in Ethiopia, which gathers interesting information, but often never effects change. It sits in published journals never influencing the realities on the ground. Adino talked about learning how to identify a problem, then identify the know-do gap and conduct implementation research to effect change, and then sharing the findings with those in power with the goal of effecting change at the policy level: “My attitude is totally changed. We have many problems, and using implementation science can work.”
In ten years Adino hopes to have earned his PhD and “be well engaged in problem solving in public health research in Ethiopia.” He never plans to leave Ethiopia for more than enough time to complete necessary studies. Adino always plans to return home where he will spend his life living into the name he was given, and creating opportunities for health and healing in Ethiopia.
It is an incredible privilege to have Adino working with SCOPE. As a former fellow I can say that one of the most meaningful parts of the fellowship is the chance to collaborate with, and learn from our Ethiopian counterparts like Adino. He wanted to be sure I thanked all those who supported his trip to the U.S. in a myriad of ways, and all those who support and believe in the work SCOPE is doing. He is happy to be back home with his wife, and his beloved injera, but has nothing but warm memories and gratitude when he remembers his time in the U.S.