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Tangut was 30 years old and lived in the countryside 400 miles away from Gondar, the small city in northern Ethiopia where I practice dermatology. She had been itching for two years because of a treatable skin condition caused by mites. While saving money for the trip to see me, she passed the disease to her child, and they both had advanced cases when they finally reached me.
I practice in a university hospital where I am the only dermatologist for 6 million people. Ethiopia as a whole has a population of 80 million, but only one doctor for every 40,000 people. The United States, where many African health workers end up practicing, has one doctor for every 500 people.
Poor patients often travel miles after months of planning to reach specialised doctors, and by the time they reach us, their diseases have often progressed dangerously. In a normal day at my clinic, I see up to 50 patients, many of whom suffer from…