A few months ago I was approached to do a talk on global Emergency Medicine (EM) at the then still mythical BadEMfest. My comfort zone is Afripositive EM and the trigger for the talk actually came from a discussion with a colleague who is an amazing EM physician and person, and listening to him being overawed and insecure in the face of visitors, to the point of questioning what he has to give. The aim of the talk was to inspire and motivate and to remind Africans to own our version of EM, our knowledge and experiences – to feel “good enough”.
The message of the talk is simple.
Authentic African EM
EM should be appropriate to context, to the needs of the population we serve. In SA, that means that much of our priorities in teaching and policies should be around infectious diseases, trauma and non-communicable disease.
EM should be responsive to the racial and social injustices within society and more specifically in our profession. In South Africa EM training struggles with recruiting Black African candidates. There are only 7 Black Emergency Physicians out of 125 registered. We need to work at understanding why this is. There are also issues around race, gender, religion and sexual orientation that we need to deal with. We need to be conscious of our own biases and how our view of the world is shaped by Western views and media.
Proudly African EM.
We should be proud of what we have achieved in developing EM in South Africa and the rest of Africa.
There is no right way to be an EM doctor, nurse or paramedic. We cannot judge ourselves by the standards of another population, another resourced system or another healthcare culture. We only need to be what is needed here and now. And it’s okay to have Christmas with snow or with sunshine!
Heike Geduld is a proudly African Emergency Physician working in Cape Town, South Africa.