Navigating COVID-19: an update from Tajikistan

4 May 2021

The COVID-19 Pandemic has shifted the way we all work, live, and navigate the world. It has also widened and highlighted global inequalities, particularly the delivery of and access to healthcare services and education. As part of a wider series, we will share updates from IFD Project Partners in Tajikistan, Nepal, Tanzania, and Mexico, among others, to share how they have navigated these challenges.

We begin our Series in Tajikistan with PASHA, who received a DermLink Grant in 2020 with the support of an ILDS Member organisation, the Association of Professors of Dermatology (APD). PASHA is a non-profit organisation that focuses on improving capacity for healthcare delivery in low- and middle-income countries through workforce training. With the assistance of the IFD, they sought to establish South-South cooperation between Tajik dermatologists and their counterparts in Nepal.

As part of this exchange, two Tajik dermatologists were set to travel to Nepal for a 1-month observership and knowledge exchange programme at the DI Skin Hospital and Referral Centre (DISHARC). However, the launch of the programme coincided with the pandemic, and travel was no longer feasible. To overcome this, PASHA modified their programme to allow Tajik dermatologists to learn from their Nepali colleagues as part of a weekly online educational case conference.

During each conference, Dr Rustam Sultonov, one of the lead Tajik dermatologists on this project, presents three to four patient cases and shares the patient’s history along with a differential diagnosis. This was followed by a discussion between dermatologists from Nepal and their counterparts in Tajikistan, with both parties sharing their approach to diagnosis and treatment. Through this, Tajikistan has benefited from the knowledge of their counterparts in Nepal, who practice according to the latest British and American guidelines.

According to Dr Ali Lotfizadeh, PASHA Co-Founder and Director, the online nature of the programme has had many benefits. He notes that:

While the programme is less immersive and does not provide the Tajik dermatologists with the chance to see dermatology care in Nepal up close, it has given a greater number of Tajik dermatologists the chance to participate. Furthermore, the cases that are discussed are of patients from Tajikistan, making the discussions more applicable for Tajik dermatologists. It has also helped increase enthusiasm about the use of computer technology for knowledge exchange and education among Tajik providers. To date, we have held 5 weekly cases conferences and plan to continue the conferences on a weekly basis. This project has taught us that while the COVID-19 pandemic brings challenges in the implementation of educational programmes, it has also had some unintended benefits, such as the one shared here.

To learn more about PASHA and their work, please visit: https://pasha4health.org/

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