Medical Textbooks for Mozambique: An Emory Story

Four of the six residents in the first intern class at the Hospital Central de Maputo, in Maputo, Mozambique. Left to right: Dr. Maria Augosta Mutombene, Dr. Ezio Massinga, Dr. Brito Gulela, Dr. Dino Lopes.

Four smiling young physicians stand next to a bookcase stocked with emergency medicine textbooks. But for these residents at the Hospital Central de Maputo, in Maputo, Mozambique, the photo tells the story of an undreamed-of gift, and a connection with physicians they have never met, half a planet away.

Ranked by GDP, Mozambique is the 7th poorest country in the world. General physicians are paid less than $1000 USD per month, and basic medicines and even paper for the ECG machine are often in drastic shortage, while rates of malaria and HIV rank among the worst in the world. Textbooks are precious and hard to come by. There is no medical bookstore in Moazmbique, ordering online is impossible, the postal system barely exists, Mozambican physicians rarely have credit cards, and regardless, the price of a new textbook would be out of reach for almost all physicians in the public system. Used textbooks are sometimes sold outside the medical school, where a vendor lays out an array of out-of-date editions on a changing and unpredictable variety of topics.

So the four boxes of medical textbooks -- a gift from physicians at the Emory University Department of Emergency Medicine -- were greeted with excitement, amazement, and pride. As the residents opened the cartons, a senior surgeon stopped by. When he learned that all the books were a gift to the fledgling Emergency Medicine residency, he shook his head in disbelief. "When we started surgery," he said, "we had only one book. I have never seen a residency start like this."

As they unpacked, the residents wrote "Emory University" inside the cover of each and every book, ensuring that neither the gift, nor the generosity of spirit behind it, would be forgotten soon.