22 Mar 2010

Open University awarded funding to train doctors in Ethiopia

Prof Janet Grant, Ethiopian clinic manager, Prof Mike Stewart

Prof Janet Grant, Ethiopian clinic manager, Prof Mike Stewart

The Open University has been awarded £200,000 for its Distance Learning Medical Centre (DLMC) programme in Ethiopia. The programme will train doctors specifically for practice in areas of the country that currently have limited medical provision.

Ethiopia has a severe shortage of doctors. Currently around 95% of medical students leave the country after qualifying, leaving fewer than 700 doctors to serve the country’s population of 80 million. The Medical Centre will assist the Ethiopian government to achieve its target of producing 11,000 additional doctors.

The funding – which has been awarded by Ethiopiaid and Open University alumni – will enable the Medical Centre to continue providing vital training to the country’s future doctors at St Pauls Millennium School Medical School in Addis Ababa, which opened in 2008. Students studying the programme have been selected not only for their academic ability but also for their motivation to remain in Ethiopia once they qualify.

The programme – led by Professor Janet Grant (Director of the Centre for Education in Medicine) and Professor Mike Stewart (Faculty of Science) – includes clinical, community and basic science and will produce doctors with the competence to practise unsupervised in a rural setting.

Open and distance learning has enormous potential to allow Ethiopia to expand its medical training rapidly despite a shortage of trainers. It also offers a cost-effective and efficient way of producing a high-quality medical curriculum, which meets World Federation for Medical Education Global standards for all new medical schools. This model of learning can also be used to support the skills development and further training of medical staff already working in the field in remote and rural areas.

Professor Janet Grant said: “We’re delighted to receive this funding. Distance learning in medicine is a proven and effective approach to the development of doctors who practise medicine to the highest possible standards. This work is based on our own work in the UK and on our experience of developing distance-learning courses for doctors in the Indian sub-continent.

“We shall be working with the St Paul’s faculty to support their own innovative integrated curriculum which is tailored to local needs. We’ll ensure that the work is replicable in other medical schools in Ethiopia and beyond. To that end, we’ll involve medical faculties from other African countries, as well as writing guidance on implementing the St Paul’s approach elsewhere.”


Notes to editors
For interview and photograph requests, contact Lauren Hardy (01908 655 614 /

The Distance Learning Medical Centre programme will be complementary to the successful HEAT project which trains health extension workers in Ethiopia. HEAT is modelled on the OU’s TESSA (Teacher Education in Sub-Saharan Africa) programme which is already providing training and support for 200,000 primary school teachers in nine countries in Africa. TESSA won a prestigious Queen’s Anniversary Prize in 2009. For more information about the work the OU is doing in Africa, go to

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