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What it took to spark a mental health reckoning for Africa’s doctors

A monitor shows the vital signs of a mock coronavirus patient during an exercise simulating the treatment of a large number of patients due to the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) at the Aga Khan University Hospital in Nairobi.
Reuters/Baz Ratner
In the midst of the pandemic, a shift is taking place in the approach to mental health treatment.
  • Jackie Bischof
By Jackie Bischof

Talent Lab editor


Laide Akinsemoyin has been working as a volunteer doctor in an isolation ward for coronavirus patients in Lagos, Nigeria since April. Each day, before her shift, she has to enter a “donning room,” to slowly and carefully put on the personal protective equipment that stands between her and possible infection from Covid-19.

Akinsemoyin previously worked as a general practitioner in private practice. Since starting in the isolation ward, she says, the biggest adjustment has been building “pauses” into her work—to make sure she has on her PPE before rushing to a patient in distress, for example, or to consider which procedures she can’t do because of the risks involved.

“The way you move, the way you interact, the things you would normally do by rote as a regular doctor in an emergency situation, in this instance you can’t,” Akinsemoyin says. “You’re constantly having to revise the way you do things and still give patients the best care.”

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