Why We Do What We Do: A Letter from Ethiopia

Mar 18, 2024

Can you imagine a young pathologist based in a remote area of Ethiopia, affected by civil unrest and enduring complete internet blackouts, would travel over 500 kilometers to reach the capital city of Addis Ababa to access the internet and apply for an OMI seminar?

That journey is exactly what Dr. Wubshet Assefa underwent to submit his application for this year’s Cleveland Clinic pathology course in Salzburg. Guess what! He was chosen out of 144 applicants and recieved the fellowship he was aiming for. In a heartfelt letter to the OMI, Dr. Assefa vividly depicts his arduous journey, the plethora of medical knowledge he gained, and the new friendships he forged.

This letter illustrates the grander pursuit of the OMI: The sharing of medical knowledge beyond borders, the building of mutual understanding between different cultures, and the creating of a global community despite the world’s conflicts.

You can read his entire letter below:


Dear OMI team, faculty members, and fellows,


Having found myself stranded in an area affected by civil unrest and enduring complete internet blackouts, I had to travel over 500km to reach the capital city of Ethiopia, Addis Ababa, in order to access the internet and apply for OMI seminars. Despite the challenges, the OMI team managed to locate me in the heart of the conflict in Bahir Dar, Ethiopia. Yes! The OMI selected the perfect candidate for the pathology seminar – an eager and determined individual living in a remote location.


As I embarked on my journey to Salzburg, which was my first ever international trip, the anticipation of exploring a new land filled me with excitement. The city greeted me with breath-taking views of ancient castles standing tall and the snow-covered peaks of the alps as a backdrop. The melodic ringing of church bells filled the air, adding to the city’s charm. I could never have imagined the beauty that awaited me.


During my stay in Salzburg, I found myself immersed in the seminar, eager to learn and grow professionally as a doctor. Meeting world-class pathologists and gaining first hand insights from them was a prestigious moment for me. The knowledge I have gained will undoubtedly enhance my ability to deliver more up-to-date, standardized, and precise diagnoses, ultimately improving my patient care.


But it wasn’t just the academic side of my trip that left a lasting impression on me. The cultural experiences, the friendships forged, and the countless memories made in just seven short days were beyond measure. I enjoyed performing our traditional dance, known as “eskista,” which the fellows affectionately called “the vibration.” We also spent time practicing dances from other countries, and each one of them brought us immense joy and excitement.


I will always remember the fantastic dance performances from Latvia and Kurdistan, the hilarious humour from Hungary and Serbia, and the kind heartedness of Bulgaria. The warm smiles from Georgia and Armenia, the hospitality of Slovenia and the Czech Republic. The pride of Ukraine and the fun coordination by Russia. The stylish outfits of Nigeria and the beauty of Belarus. Every moment spent with my Lithuanian, Mongolian, Portuguese, and Moldovan friends was enjoyable. And the priceless friendships I formed with my Ethiopian fellow and Kenyan neighbour will always hold a special place in my heart.


As I tested my knowledge of geography, distinguishing between countries like Albania and Armenia, Latvia and Lithuania, or Serbia and Slovenia were not an easy task until I learned it during this trip.


What a week! Those seven days in Salzburg were loaded with “millions” of stories to tell friends back home. From lasting friendships marked by receiving thoughtful gifts, like a wooden necktie and national drinks from the kind Czechs or receiving a book from a Slovenian gentleman, to enjoying a chamber music concert in Mozart’s hometown to experiencing my first ever snowfall in the city. From struggling to learn European dances and foods to enjoying the hospitality of the OMI team and the entire staff of Schloss Arenburg. Of course, I wouldn’t forget receiving a Cleveland pen as a prize from one of the faculty for just spotting bacteria commonly seen in my country. My stay indeed exceeded my expectations!


Thank you, OMI team! Thank you, faculty, and thank you fellows!


OMI Alumnus Dr. Wubshet Assefa from Ethiopia

February 2024