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Tom Campbell, MD Works to Improve Health Outcomes in Zimbabwe by Improving Medical Education

Tom Campbell, MD
​When a faculty member of the University of Zimbabwe College of Health Sciences expressed uncertainty about participating in a leadership in medical education training program, Tom Campbell, MD wasn’t surprised. With 153 faculty members serving 865 medical students—while maintaining heavy patient loads and research requirements—the physicians at the University of Zimbabwe are overloaded.
After completing a portion of the program, the faculty member has changed his mind. In fact, he recently expressed an attitude change of 180 degrees. He now sees value in the program and recognizes how what he has learned helps him every day.
Campbell, along with a group of University of Colorado Denver faculty and researchers, is improving the health of Zimbabweans by helping the faculty at the University of Zimbabwe College of Health Sciences improve their teaching skills—providing current medical students with a better education and hopefully, an incentive to stay and practice in the country.
Campbell was drawn to the project because of its potential for significant impact. After experiencing years of economic turmoil, the nation of Zimbabwe is experiencing new growth. Those decades of instability contributed to the current shortage of health care providers.
The project, funded by a grant from the National Institute for Health (NIH) through its Medical Education Partnership Initiative (MEPI), focuses on projects that sustainably increase the capacity of medical education. University of Colorado Denver faculty are contributing to the MEPI project at the University of Zimbabwe, called the Novel Education Clinical Trainees and Research (NECTAR), in four major components.
  1. Faculty Development Workshops. Three times per year, the group from CU travels to Zimbabwe to deliver workshops intended to help faculty members improve their teaching skills. Modeled after the work of the Academy of Medical Educators, topics include professionalism, writing test questions, curricular development, bedside teaching and more.
  2. Health Education and Leadership in Zimbabwe (HEALZ). Dr. Eva Aagaard works with a select group of University of Zimbabwe faculty who are committed to being leaders in medical education in Zimbabwe. The team provides faculty with curriculum development, program evaluation and advanced leadership skills training.
  3. Mentored Clinical Scholars. This project under the leadership of Dr. Nancy Madinger focuses on postgraduate trainees and specialists to improve their abilities as medical scholars in Zimbabwe.
  4. Visiting Professors. Under the leadership of Dr. Suzanne Brandenburg, select University of Colorado faculty are providing bedside and classroom teaching for medical students in Zimbabwe in wide variety of topics including anatomy, physiology, medical genetics, endocrinology, hematology and adult and pediatric medicine.
The team is at the half-way point of the five-year project and is seeing demonstrable results. Students have noted improved technology as well as improved attitudes about the quality of their medical education.
Though the initial results are favorable, the types of changes that Campbell wants to see will take time. He credits an excellent team of dedicated faculty at the University of Colorado Denver for their accomplishments.
In time, Campbell hopes to see improved and sustainable health outcomes for the people of Zimbabwe and have their methods serve as a model for other programs in areas with similar needs.