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Case Study - Richard Feinmann

Rick patient 2Manchester Royal Infirmary Respiratory Physician Richard Feinmann and his team in Uganda have won a prestigious 'Getting evidence into practice' award at the British Medical Journal Group Awards. He was part of a Ugandan team trialling a new technique to diagnose Tuberculosis (TB) resulting in more people being treated.

Having spent 15 years at the MRI, one would have forgiven Dr Feinmann, 65, for putting his feet up after his retirement.  Instead he chose to volunteer at the International Hospital Kampula for a year where encountered a continent that had 100,000 cases of TB.  He explained that after the AIDS epidemic in the early nineties, the cases of TB rose due to the immune systems of HIV/AIDS sufferers being lowered.

However, diagnostic tests are extremely expensive so along with Target TB, he carried out research into low-cost intervention into the diagnoses of TB in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Dr Feinmann said: "This award is for all the Ugandan volunteer workers and village health workers who worked so hard with us to improve the lot of their community.  We are very pleased with the award."

AwardThe technique is known as Microscopic Observed Technique (MOT) and the programme is now run by a team of Ugandan doctors, clinical officers, TB nurses and an increasing number of trained volunteers.  This has led to increased rates of diagnosis and treatment of TB and opening the doors to better management of TB, not only in Uganda but across Sub-Saharan Africa.

When Dr Feinmann decided to volunteer overseas he hadn't realised that people of his age could volunteer.  He added: "One of the things I want to stress is that people of my age can volunteer when they retire.  It's an extraordinary experience." In fact he enjoyed his time out there in 2009 so much that he went back again!

Rick patient 1He worked in the charity wing, Hope Ward, of the hospital which is for people who can't afford healthcare as there are many people in Uganda who don't have a lot of money.  Therefore they are unable to pay for what can be simple, but life-saving, medication.  Dr Feinmann also worked alongside a Uganda physician who took over his role when he returned to the UK.

Dr Feinmann said:  "There is a vast difference in healthcare - out there, 74% of diseases are curable conditions as they do not have chronic diseases..  But 60% of the population is under 18 and there is a life expectancy of just 51."