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Even if a patient is cured of tuberculosis, remaining scar tissue usually leads to chronic lung disease

In his presentation to MSIH students in November, visiting professor, Dr. Neil Schluger gave an overview of his work in Ethiopia where he is part of the East Africa Training Initiative in Pulmonary Medicine (EATI). The Initiative, a fellowship training program, is the brainchild of Dr. Schluger and Dr. Charles Sherman of Brown University and is funded by Vital Strategies (a U.S. based NGO that works to improve health in low and middle income countries) and the Swiss Lung Foundation. It aims to:

  • Address the dire need for pulmonary and critical care specialists in Ethiopia
  • Ensure the program is self-sustainable by EATI-trained physicians by the year 2020
  • To provide expertise and consultation to the Ethiopian Ministry of Health

Dr. Schluger, Prof of Medicine, Epidemiology and Environmental Health Science Columbia University, is an annual visitor to MSIH where he participates in the 2nd year Respiratory Clerkship, training MSIH students as they study the thorax “system” in anatomy. He is an enthusiastic supporter of MISH, impressed by the global health content of the medical degree program.

“MSIH focuses on underprivileged societies – which is exactly the reason I created EATI. Our interests are a perfect match.”

In his talk, Dr. Schluger went on to explain that air pollution is a major contributor to respiratory problems.

Unclean Energy Sources

“Like so many other parts of the developing world, the fuels used for cooking and heating in Ethiopia are ‘unclean energy sources”. Imagine living in a mud hut during the winter. Cow dung and wood may be used for heating and cooking – creating horrendous breathing conditions for everyone inside, especially as there’s poor ventilation. This leads to all sorts of respiratory problems – including TB.”

Dr. Schluger explained that about 20% of the people coming to EATI’s clinic have chronic lung disease. “This is because even if you’re cured of tuberculosis, your lungs are still scarred,”

Surprising Facts

As an aside, Dr. Schluger surprised the audience with the little-known fact that Ethiopia is the only African country that was never colonized. “It was occupied for a while by Italy, but never colonized, so you can say Ethiopians are the “true, undiluted Africans”.

Another surprising fact that came across is that Delhi in India is the world’s most polluted city, and that nine of the world’s ten most polluted places are in India.

Dr. Schluger concluded by telling the audience that anyone wishing to join his Ethiopian Initiative is invited to visit its website and apply.

“I have no doubt I’ll see many applicants from MSIH in the future.”


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