New Committee Expands Columbia Radiology's Global Health Program

Allison Borowski, MD, assistant professor of radiology at Columbia University Irving Medical Center

The Department of Radiology has a long tradition of providing support for underserved communities around the world, in a range of countries that have included Liberia, Peru, India, and Haiti.

Now, a new Global Radiology Outreach Committee led by Allison Borowski, MD, will serve to organize and expand the department's commitment to public health.

Borowski, a breast imaging specialist, is also the associate program director of the Diagnostic Radiology Residency in the department. Both faculty and residents will serve on the committee. "I had no exposure to global radiology until I came to Columbia," she said. "I think it's so important to expose our residents, who will then go on to help underserved communities in their careers."

The committee’s current areas of focus are Haiti and Guyana, Borowski said.

Building Sustainable Radiology Expertise in Guyana

As an official chapter of RAD-AID International—a non-profit dedicated to supporting the development of radiology services and education in low- and middle-income countries—members of the department have been providing both virtual and on-site support for a new radiology residency at Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation in Guyana since 2019.

To date, faculty and residents have traveled to Guyana three times, and virtual lectures are ongoing.

Borowski was recently appointed associate director of the RAD-AID Guyana Program. In this role she will work with the on-site residency director and other volunteer institutions to structure the residency, develop curriculum, organize volunteer educators, and develop systems for resident evaluation and feedback.

She is finding creative ways to involve members of the department who may not be able or want to travel to Guyana. This October, for Breast Cancer Awareness Month, four breast imaging faculty will give virtual lectures to the Guyanese residents focused on breast imaging. She has enlisted other department faculty to collaborate on curriculum development, support junior faculty with their teaching skills, and do virtual read outs with residents in Guyana. Borowski has also organized two virtual joint conferences with residents from Columbia and Guyana.

In addition, two resident members of the committee have applied for and received more than $100,000 in donations of equipment used in interventional radiology procedures, which will be sent to the Georgetown Public Hospital's fledgling interventional radiology program.

"We're setting up the country to have its own radiologists so that at some point they will be self-sufficient," Borowski said, explaining that physicians trained in Guyana are required to do service, and most of the radiology residency's Guyanese faculty are recent graduates of the residency itself. "I think that by providing them with the tools to teach, and to continue to teach, we'll be able to step back at some point."

A Radiology Technology School in Haiti

The department's Haiti program has been ongoing for more than a decade, led by Ernst Garçon, MD, who was born and educated in the country. Projects that Garçon and others from the department have been involved in include the establishment of and curriculum development for a Radiology Residency at the State University of Haiti Hospital in Port-au-Prince, a week-long breast cancer screening conference at the same hospital, and most recently, the establishment of a radiology technology school in the northern city of Cap-Haïtien.

Political unrest in Haiti for the past four years has prevented on-site support from members of the department, Borowski said, but the committee is soliciting faculty to participate in virtual support for the radiology technology students through lectures or review of interesting CT cases.

Borowski emphasizes that by maintaining focus on education—as opposed to directly volunteering radiology services—the department is helping to create sustainable radiology programs in both countries. It is also a way to get broad participation from faculty in an academic medicine environment. "It's easy to get involved because it's what we do every day," she says. "It's teaching residents."


More Information

Global Radiology Outreach Committee Members: Allison Borowski, MD; Zohaib Ahmad, MD; Akin Famuyide, MD; Milana Flusberg, MD; Ernst Garçon, MD; Eleanor Kim, MD; Angela Lignelli, MD; Connie Liou, MD; Mary Salvatore, MD; Pallavi Utukuri, MD.