By Aida B. Solomon
Published: Thursday, February 13th, 2014
Los Angeles (TADIAS) — The California-based non-profit organization, US Doctors for Africa (USDFA), is gearing up to host its largest healthcare summit to date — The Pan-African Medical Doctors and Healthcare Conference — to be held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia from May 21-23, 2014.
In an interview with Tadias Magazine, Ted Alemayehu, Founder and President of USDFA said that the gathering, the first of its kind, is intended to mobilize solutions to common concerns that healthcare professionals from across Africa share. “We have invited almost every medical association from the continent,” Alemayehu said, pointing out the conference will also include “a ministerial panel” in which the Ethiopian, South African, Ugandan, Zambian and Nigerian Ministers of Health will be participating. Invited dignitaries including the Prime Minister of Ethiopia, President Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia, and Chairperson of the African Union Nkosazana Clarice Dlamini-Zuma will also be in attendance.
The three-day conference will be held at the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa headquarters in Addis Ababa. The theme of the conference, Alemayehu said, is “Africa’s healthcare challenges of the 21st century.” Some of the topics to be raised include healthcare infrastructure, investment opportunities, women’s health, and the controversial issue of “brain drain” in regards to African healthcare professionals.
“One of the main reasons why our African doctors are leaving the continent is because of economic reasons; so how do we deal with that?” Alemayehu asks. “One of the ideas that we’re going to introduce is the launch of a Pan-African Doctors Fund.” He added: “The fund would match a healthcare professional’s salary in their native country. For example, instead of an Ethiopian doctor making 5,000 birr per month, the fund would help him earn 12,000 birr a month, a difference that would help retain much-needed doctors in the country. The fund will also support the training of African doctors and provision of up-to-date technologies.”
Alemayehu said his team is “extremely excited” about the conference. Fourteen years ago Alemayhu launched USDFA after coming across a shocking statistic in the LA Times: “In some countries there is one doctor for every 100,000 people.”
“That’s what really got me,” Alemayhu says. With a professional background in hospitality management and consulting, Alemayhu decided to sponsor five doctors on a four-week mission to South Africa, Ethiopia, and Kenya. The American doctors were able to establish partnerships and perform operations, and came back to Los Angeles with “tons of stories to share.” A nationwide profile on the Tavis Smiley Show jumpstarted USDFA, and the rest, as Alemayehu says, “is history.”
Tadias Magazine first sat down with Ted Alemayehu in 2003 as the non-profit was gearing up to launch several high-profile partnerships to expand their mission of providing training and assistance to doctors working in African countries. In 2006, USDFA was approached by the Clinton Foundation in conjunction with the Clinton Health Access Initiative campaign to increase low-cost quality treatment to those afflicted with HIV/AIDS. In 2009, USDFA organized the first ever African First Lady’s Health Summit in Los Angeles with over 25 participating countries and 19 First Ladies flown in from across the continent.
In regards to the upcoming conference in Addis Ababa, Alemayhu says he expects NGOs, foundations, corporations, and mobile clinic manufacturers to also be in attendance.
You can learn more about the conference at panafricanhealthconference.org.