Spotlight: Humanitarian Efforts | Miriam I. Redleaf, MD
I am an otologist/neurotologist and former tenured professor at the University of Illinois.
Where do you currently practice, and what is your specialty area?
I am an otologist/neurotologist and former tenured professor at the University of Illinois. Now, I am relocating to be in otology/neurotology and neurosurgery at the University of New Mexico.
What humanitarian organizations are you involved with, and describe what these programs do?
Our four adopted Ethiopian children are in their thirties now, and we have maintained close ties to the country. Since 2012 I have been discovering the infrastructure from which I and others developed education programs in Ethiopia through our charity called the Ethio-American Hearing Project. Some of the programs we provide include:
- Cued speech education in deaf schools
- Audiology training and development of audiology testing and treatment sites with the Eduplex Training Institute
- Otologic surgical training with six surgical (mostly university) sites
- Development of cochlear implantation in partnership with MED-EL
- Annual International Ethiopian Otology Conference (2020 canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic)
- Parkinson’s boxing program
How does your work impact the communities you serve, and how does it impact you as a person?
I believe my work is worthwhile because we have trained five otologists in a country where there had only been one. Two more people are in training now, and two more are on deck to start. Furthermore, we trained 29 audiology technicians in a country where there were no audiologists and only one hearing aid specialist. And we have been able to create a cochlear implant program using only Ethiopian nationals for the work in a country with no audiologists and no otologists.
My motivation for my work is fairness. I think it’s only fair to share our education and get these Ethiopian colleagues on their feet.
What would you say to encourage others to support humanitarian efforts around the world?
My advice to other surgeons would be to put your ego aside and your hopes of operating without electronic medical record hassles and the elaborate obstacles in the United States—try to make the actual place you go to better. Of course we would all love to fly into a country and do 40 stapedectomies and then fly home knowing we helped 40 people hear better. But I strongly feel we have more of a duty to help the surgeons there do the 40 stapedectomies. A corollary to that principle would be that it’s probably best to always go to the same country.