Hello, I’m Alvine Ngouonga and I am the SCOPE Student Assistant. I have had the pleasure of talking to Adino Tesfahun about how he got into healthcare, his experience with SCOPE, and his decision to pursue a Ph. D. in Epidemiology. Here’s a small summary of my conversation with Adino.
Hello Adino, could you tell me a little bit about yourself?
I am Adino Tesfahun, Former SCOPE Fellow and FLAME Study Manager. I was born in Debark, Ethiopia, 100 km from Gondar, near the Simien Mountain National Park. My father was a merchant and my mother was a housewife. I started Grade 1 around the age of six and would play with the neighborhood children when I came home from school. All around, I had a very happy childhood. It was around Middle School that I started to notice the health inequalities that existed around me. Some classmates would walk 2-3 hours each day to come to school, and then commute the same time to return home. I also had classmates that were pregnant, and some of them were still expected to do the 2-3 hour commute to school each day. Some of these girls weren’t receiving the proper support from the social circles as expecting mothers. It was observing this that sparked my interest in healthcare. Thus, upon my graduation from High School, I went to the University of Gondar to become a Health Officer.
What is a Health Officer?
Health officers are professionals that are trained to meet the needs of communities in rural populations in Ethiopia. Health Officers carry out most of the health services in hospitals and health centers. They work as physicians and community health practitioners. When I became a Health Officer, I was placed in the Woynema Health Center. The center was very rural. There was no basic equipment and the health-seeking behavior of the community was poor. The members of the community did not practice preventative care and often came to the health center only after their conditions became unbearable. There was one incident where a laboring woman came to the center late at night. She had tried to deliver at home, but the infant was oriented transverse and she was unable to deliver. When she arrived at the health center, we immediately rushed her to the hospital, which was hours away. An incident like this could have been avoided with adequate antenatal care.
After that experience, I started to do outreach in the community to teach them about preventative healthcare and the services that are provided by the Woynema Health Center. Several months later, I was transferred to the University of Gondar Specialized Hospital. I worked in the outpatient and inpatient departments for the multi-drug resistance tuberculosis program. When patients were discharged from the hospital, I traveled with them to the health centers in their region and helped connect them to services. This new position allowed me to travel to many health centers in the northwestern region of Ethiopia, where I observed the different ways that health centers operated and served their communities.
It seems like you really enjoyed your time as a Health Officer. What prompted you to work with SCOPE?
Although I enjoyed my work as a Health Officer, there were questions that I had about Public Health that I couldn’t answer as a Health Officer. Epidemiology is the study of how diseases occur in different groups of people and why. It gives me the tools to identify health problems in my communities and propose solutions for these problems. I went back to school in 2013 to complete my Master’s in Public Health. It was then that I learned about SCOPE. My friend, Kefyalew was a SCOPE Fellow who was working on training priests about Antenatal Care and HIV/AIDS. I liked the fact that SCOPE was using influential members of the community to improve health outcomes. The next year, I applied for the SCOPE fellowship. I worked on advocating for the co-use of ART with holy water sites and developing HIV testing capabilities holy water sites, which is where ill people came to be healed. I also helped in maternal and child projects.
After graduation, I worked I became a lecturer in Epidemiology and Biostatistics at the University of Gondar and continued my work with SCOPE. Since 2017, I worked with Dr. Getahun Asres on the FLAME Study, an intervention meant to create demand for maternal and child health services. Through SCOPE, I came to Seattle to learn about implementation Science from UW professors and met Dr. Brandon Guthrie and Dr. Judd Walson which inspired me to continue my work with SCOPE with more energy, new knowledge, and a renewed commitment.
What prompted you to pursue a PhD at the University of Washington?
I was inspired to pursue my Ph.D. because I want to better serve the students at my University and the community at large. I had reached a point in my education where I wanted to push myself and elevate my understanding of Epidemiology and Biostatistics. Since I had met so many Seattle residents through the SCOPE fellowship, I was inspired to come to the University of Washington for school. Having worked with Dr. Guthrie and Dr. Walson also inspired me to study in this institution, which was coupled with Kate Pfizenmaier’s encouragement and tremendous support, which I will never forget. My stay so far has been wonderful. Since my arrival, the SCOPE community has gone through lengths to make sure I was comfortable. They made my transition to the new like in Seattle safe and smooth through their care and generosity. I would like to thank and acknowledge the SCOPE team for being such a great support system for me.