Home » News » 'A novel approach is called for': An interview with Professor Evarist Njelesani

'A novel approach is called for': An interview with Professor Evarist Njelesani

The RCP is proud to be supporting a group of leading African physicians who have come together to establish the College of Physicians of East, Central and Southern Africa (ECSACOP). Their mission: ‘To improve standards of healthcare throughout the region by providing specialist training for physicians committed to life-long learning’.

Following the third meeting of the foundation group for the new college in Kampala, Professor Evarist Njelesani, the Zambian physician elected as chair of the foundation group, explains why its success is vital to the health of the region. Part of our 'Voices on the ground' series looking at international work of members, fellows and friends of the RCP.

Why is now the right time to establish the college?

These are challenging times - we’re facing a number of emerging and re-emerging health challenges coupled with an increasing burden of both communicable and non-communicable diseases.

There has also been a sharp increase in the number of medical schools in the region in the last decade which has led to questions around differing quality of training. Plus, there has been little growth of postgraduate training so investment at undergraduate level is often lost.  

Physicians of the region are convinced that a novel approach to is called for to ensure the harmonisation of standards of training and improved quality of care for patients in both rural and urban areas.

What made you want to lead the foundation group for the new college?

My experiences working across the region in a variety of roles have convinced me that the college is urgently needed, and that it has the potential to improve the health of millions.

I believe my colleagues elected me to lead the foundation group because of some aspects of my background in the profession. I have a deep understanding of the health systems in our region having served as the technical head, permanent secretary and director of medical services of the Ministry of Health in Zambia, and as WHO representative in Sierra Leone, Nigeria and Zimbabwe.

I also have a great deal of experience in the academic world, having been involved in medical education throughout my career.

RCP special adviser for East, Central and Southern Africa Professor Keith McAdam at the Kampala meeting
What do you see as the main elements of the ECSACOP training model?

Training under ECSACOP aims at producing a physician who is clinically and academically competent to serve in both rural and urban areas with confidence.

We are taking care to write a syllabus and curriculum for trainees that is built on quality of care, paying special attention to the region’s prevalent conditions. We are also ensuring that trainees will have knowledge of international developments in healthcare and that they appreciate the importance of self-learning post qualification.

Finally, what do you see as the biggest changes that patients will experience in say 10 years when the new college is firmly established?

Patients will have better access to highly trained physicians, which will mean quicker diagnosis and treatment. There will be more highly trained physicians in rural settings and therefore a reduced number of patients having to travel into the cities to attend appointments and enhanced expertise in regional health conditions.

Ultimately, better health outcomes for the region.

The RCP is supporting Professor Njelesani and the ECSACOP foundation group by providing mentorship and technical support in the run up to and beyond the college’s planned inauguration in November.