Soddo Christian Hospital – Ethiopia
Located in the most populated and impoverished area in Ethiopia, northeastern Africa, this facility offers medical care to communities that live largely by subsistence farming. The region is geographically beautiful, over looking the Rift Valley. English is spoken by the hospital staff and by most all educated Ethiopians. Given the large number of local languages, translation is routinely required and translators are readily available.
Education is a focal point at Soddo Christian Hospital, with active surgery and ophthalmology training programs. African general surgery residents participate in the PAACS residency program on site. The hospital is also a training site for the associated Siloam Nursing School. Visiting students and resident physicians participate in the full range of services provided, with supervision and responsibilities proportionate to their skills.
Location & Community
Soddo, a city of roughly 70,000 people, is 400km (250 miles) southwest of the capital of Ethiopia, Addis Ababa. Soddo is located in the Wolaitta region, one of the most populated and impoverished areas in Ethiopia. The region is mountainous and at an elevation of 2,500 m (7,400 feet). A 3,500 m mountain is nearby and a Rift Valley Lake can be viewed from this site.
The climate at Soddo Christian Hospital is best described as beautiful and temperate. Temperature ranges from 60-65 F at night to 80 – 90 during the day. However, the humidity is generally low. The rainy season lasts from May to October, with a shorter rainy season from January to March.
Become familiar with Ethiopia’s culture, history and economy by reviewing the Wikipedia Ethiopia Profile. Rich resources for Ethiopia health information include the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation IHME Ethiopia Country Profile and the World Health Organization Global Health Observatory Cameroon Data.
Travelers arrive by commercial airlines to Addis Ababa. A hospital van can be arranged to pick up visitors from the airport. The road trip from the airport to Soddo is about 6 hours.
For current information please visit the Ethiopian embassy website appropriate for one’s home nationality. United States citizens can obtain current visa information from the website of the Ethiopian Embassy in Washington, DC. Americans can generally purchase their visitor visa on arrival in Addis Ababa. Visits of longer than 2 months may require a visa obtained in advance from the Ethiopian Embassy.
Traveler’s Health & Safety
Yellow fever vaccine is required to enter the country. Recommended vaccinations include being up to date on hepatitis A and B, typhoid, polio, tetanus/diphtheria, meningococcal, and rabies. Regarding malaria prophylaxis, please consult your physician. Soddo has few mosquitoes at its altitude, but there is still a risk of disease. The staff living on site do not take malaria prophylaxis medication. One should consult with their personal physician before traveling, and refer to the CDC Travel Website for the most up-to-date health information.
Most people in this region live by subsistence farming. Their most common illnesses include TB, malaria, cancers, elephantiasis, pregnancy complications, vaginal fistulas, traumatic injuries, and physical deformities. HIV is not yet a common problem in this rural area of Southern Ethiopia.
English is spoken by the hospital staff and by most all educated Ethiopians. Amharic is the official language of Ethiopia and is spoken by many. Woliatta is the local language of Soddo. A large number of indigenous languages are also spoken in the region. Translation is routine at Soddo Christian Hospital, and translators are readily available.
Medical Care Services
Soddo Christian Hospital was opened in January 2005 as a nonprofit facility established by St. Luke’s Health Care Foundation of Winfield, Illinois, in association with SIM (Society for International Ministries). It is a self-supporting, fee-for-service private institution. The facility includes 4 operating rooms and 120 beds in five wards: two surgical, one maternity, one medicine and pediatrics, and one orthopedic. Outpatient, opthalmology and emergency care services are also provided.
Health Profession Staff
Duane Anderson, MD, is the Program Director. Dr. Anderson is a 1979 graduate of the University of Minnesota School of Medicine, and residency trained/board certified in orthopedics at the University of Minnesota.
Ruth Droppers, MD, is an internal medicine specialist from Netherlands who directs the outpatient and rural clinic services.
Harry Bowers, OD, is an optometrist leading the new Eye Care Center and training national staff in vital ophthalmologic skills.
Paul Gray, MD, is a surgeon and leader in the Soddo Christian Hospital general surgery residency program associated with the Pan-African College of Christian Surgeons (PAACS).
Becca Gray, RD, is a registered dietician and active in patient management.
Sharon Morad, MD, is an English trained obstetrician/gynecologist whose focus is increasing maternal and prenatal care in the Woliatta region through training midwifes and increasing care to villages.
The hospital is also staffed by two Ethiopian general surgeons and 4 Ethiopian general practice physicians. The hospital also frequently hosts visiting specialists in anesthesiology, general surgery, nursing, urology, geriatric medicine, laboratory science, biomedical engineering, dentistry, and computer science.
No description of the Soddo Christian Hospital staff is complete without including the esteemed American surgeon, Harold Paul Adolph, who began serving in Ethiopia in 1966. In addition to leading the hospital in its formative years, Dr. Adolph is a founder of the influential PAACS, an outstanding program preparing African surgeons to serve their own people.
Education is a focal point at Soddo Christian Hospital, with active surgery and ophthalmology training programs. Seven African general surgery residents are presently participating in the PAACS residency program. The hospital is also a training site for the associated Siloam Nursing School. Visiting students and resident physicians participate in the full range of services provided, with supervision and responsibilities proportionate to their skills. Previous INMED Learners who served at this training site include these Graduates.
Student Lodging & Meals
Accommodations are provided in a guesthouse or a duplex. These are completely furnished and have electricity, running water, water filters, refrigerators, gas and electric burners, electric ovens, and a microwave. There is domestic help available to prepare meals and do cleaning. Most food items can be purchased in the city of Soddo.
Internet access is available. Visitors are encouraged to bring their own laptop computers.
INMED invites all participants to consider raising extra funds to financially support this facility. While such efforts are not required, they provide opportunity for INMED personnel to become involved in this important aspect of international healthcare.
Staff families enjoy pizza and movie nights together thanks to an outside pizza grill. Mountain climbing is popular, and Soddo boast of tasty traditional restaurants.
Behavior & Dress
The best policy is to be conservative and modest. MEN: Wear slacks and lab coat for hospital work. Shorts are only used for sports. Long sleeves or jacket for church is preferred. WOMEN: Skirts to mid-calf or longer. Scrubs or slacks and lab coat are acceptable for the hospital compound. No shorts or tight jeans. Modest tops that cover shoulders, midriff and cleavage. Sleeveless is not in good taste. Long scarves & wraps are used in the evenings. Tight clothing is not acceptable in the culture. Make up should only be worn lightly.
What To Pack
Visitors should bring copies of all healthcare profession licenses, diplomas, or certifications. A carry-on bag should be packed that contains essentials items just in case one’s luggage becomes lost. Bring clothes appropriate for the weather. Light sweater and rain jacket, umbrella, lab coat, flashlight and batteries, camera, sunscreen and hat, personal toiletries, games or cards, boots or rubber shoes for the rainy season, Insect repellant (fleas are the biggest problem).