Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland Coláiste Ríoga na Máinleá in Éirinn

RCSI delivers training programmes for surgeons in Sub-Saharan Africa

06 August 2013
The Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI) has recently delivered training programmes in four countries in Sub-Saharan Africa as part of a collaboration initiative between RCSI and the College of Surgeons of East, Central and Southern Africa (COSECSA).

Prof Ciarán O'Boyle (right) delivering a training class
Prof Ciarán O'Boyle and Mr Dermot O'Flynn of the RCSI Institute of Leadership spent much of the month of July travelling to Uganda, Burundi, Malawi and Mozambique to deliver train the trainer courses to COSECSA surgeons who are involved in training surgical trainees in Sub-Saharan Africa. Attendance at one of these courses is currently the only way for a surgeon to become an accredited COSECSA trainer in Sub-Saharan Africa.

The train the trainer course teaches surgeons the skills they need to teach surgical trainees; such as attributes of a good teacher, how to teach skills, how to deliver lectures and presentations, learning styles, feedback techniques and leadership skills.

These courses build on the work completed over the previous two years when courses were given in the six other member countries of COSECSA (Rwanda, Kenya, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Ethiopia and Tanzania). Since the programme began in 2011, 211 surgeons from 10 countries have completed the programme, representing approximately 15% of all surgeons in the region.

Professor Ciaran O'Boyle, Director of the RCSI Institute of Leadership said: "RCSI's involvement in the COSECSA programme reflects the College's commitment to its mission to educate, nurture and discover for the benefit of human health. The challenges facing surgical trainers in the region are formidable but the calibre of the participants on these courses is outstanding and bodes well for the future of surgery in the region."

The COSECSA region is vast, varied and home to approximately 300 million people in 10 countries. The region faces huge shortages in human resources in health, particularly at the specialist level and in particular in surgery. Basic surgery in Sub-Saharan Africa can decisively change health outcomes, sometimes from death's door to a full recovery in a matter of weeks or from being potentially seriously crippled for life to having a mild limp and a good quality of life. Yet, in Malawi and Mozambique, for example, there is only one surgeon per million people. COSECSA is working to remedy this situation and currently has 194 surgical trainees in 33 training centres across the region.

The courses have been very well received, the comments of Richard Byaruhanga from Mulago hospital in Kampala, Uganda were typical "You have opened my eyes to many interesting and practical ideas. I hope to start putting them into practice."

The RCSI/COSECSA collaboration began in 2007 and has developed into a whole college collaboration between the two Colleges, involving departments as diverse as the Department of Surgical Affairs, IT, Communications, Media Services, Examinations, Anatomy, Pathology and Biology and the Institute of Leadership.