Publishing African Neurology Textbook

When the neurologist William Howlett could not find textbooks of medicine his students in Tanzania could recognise themselves in, he decided to write his own.



– This may surprise you, but there is not even a textbook on AIDS in Africa, 27 years after the epidemic broke out. The same applies to tuberculosis and malaria, and many other diseases that are common in African countries, William Howlett tells us by email from Tanzania.

Howlett is Irish, but has spent much of his professional life as a physician and educator for patients and medical students at the Kilimanjaro Christian Medical Centre in Tanzania. He soon discovered that the only available textbooks were written for medical students in rich Western countries.

Free download

His textbook of neurology is now published by the University of Bergen (UiB) and is available as a free download from the internet.

– Standard textbooks of internal medicine and neurology are of course helpful, but they do not cover all the needs for medical knowledge in Africa. For instance clinical practice in an African everyday setting is not covered in Western medical literature. Nor are certain neurological diseases that are particularly widespread in Africa. I decided to create a compendium for my students here, and this has gradually developed into a textbook, Howlett says.

Howlett’s main objective was that the book be free to obtain and easily accessible to students and health professionals. This is where UiB provided indispensable aid. Under the label BRIC, the UiB does small-scale publishing of books. By publishing through BRIC, the UiB also acquired the right to publish the text in the open research archive BORA, from which anyone can download the book for free.

Everyday African health

William Howlett has collaborated with the UiB ever since researchers from the Centre for International Health came to the hospital in Arusha to study the AIDS epidemic in Tanzania. Howlett had already collected systematic data on the disease for years in his clinical work. Howlett made the first characterization of HIV virus in Tanzania, together with a colleague. He and his wife could also connect UiB researchers with local networks and resource people.

– Howlett has a wide academic scope and capacity that made an early impression on us. We immediately knew he had so much knowledge that all he needed to do was write his PhD. We invited him to Bergen, where he recently defended his doctoral degree about the HIV epidemic, Rune Nilsen, Department head of the UiB’s Centre for International Health, says.

”Neurology in Africa” is published this autumn.

Translated from the Norwegian by Sverre Ole Drønen.