RCSI partners with Kids Operating Room to create first pan-African training programme for children’s surgeons

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Scottish global health charity Kids Operating Room (Kids OR) is investing in the first pan-African collaborative e-learning platform to help train surgeons across Africa, with content provided by two of the continent’s surgical colleges, hosted on an online platform created by RCSI’s Institute of Global Surgery.

This innovative programme will see the West African College of Surgeons (WACS) and the College of Surgeons of East Central and Southern Africa (COSECSA) work together to provide a new and bespoke teaching resource mapped to the curricula of both training programmes. It will be one of the first online teaching programmes for children’s surgery that focuses on low-resource settings.

Between them, the two colleges cover 32 African countries with a combined population of around 800 million. In funding this project, Kids OR has facilitated a new link between the two colleges who will work together to provide this new resource.

Kids OR is a charity with bases in Edinburgh, Dundee and Nairobi. It installs dedicated facilities for children’s surgery across low and middle-income countries and provides local surgeons with the equipment they need to save children’s lives. It has provided almost 30,000 children with access to life-saving care across Africa and Latin America.

RCSI has a track record in supporting surgical education using interactive technology in low-resource environments and the online platform to host the programme will be produced by the RCSI Institute of Global Surgery (IGS). Building on extensive experience in surgical training, education and research partnerships in Africa, the RCSI Institute of Global Surgery works with local partners to develop sustainable surgical care systems in low and middle-income countries.

Professor Eric Borgstein, Secretary General of COSECSA, noted that “this new resource is unique in several ways, not only is it firmly placed in a regional African context, but it is also the first of its kind to include a strong focus on professionalism and non technical surgical skills”.

Professor Serigne Magueye Gueye, President of WACS, posited that “this programme is unique, as it merges the delivery of facts and knowledge, along with the ability to test understanding and apply these to daily clinical practice”.

He added: “Although thousands of online resources already exist in surgical education, the peculiarity of this programme lies in the fact that it provides context for African needs as it is written by enthusiastic African surgeons from diverse backgrounds who are also able to compile and modify best practice from elsewhere in the world and apply it to the African healthcare system and its needs alongside their own valuable experiences.”

Professor George Youngson, Kids OR trustee and Emeritus Professor at the University of Aberdeen, said: “This is a pioneering partnership that will result in more and better trained surgeons across both colleges. This e-learning programme provides paediatric surgical trainees throughout Africa with a range of learning possibilities to complement the clinical training they receive on the wards and in the operating rooms of their own hospitals.

“The e-learning platform is an important part of Kids OR’s comprehensive approach to building paediatric surgical capacity, alongside our installation work and scholarship grants for trainees. Having access to expertise is crucial for those who, in turn, will learn to become experts for a continent’s future.”

The course content will be delivered via a Moodle-based platform of interactive learning, with one module a week requiring around two to three hours of study.

Professor Mark Shrime, the O’Brien Chair of Global Surgery in RCSI, said: “The RCSI Institute of Global Surgery is working towards a world where all children in need of surgery are able to access the care they need. A blended approach to education, with e-learning complementing in-service training, is a highly effective approach to developing the paediatric surgical workforce across a huge geographic region. This approach is particularly important in the context of the global pandemic.”

The platform will also support existing surgical and anaesthetic teams who care for children; providing them with a resource to refresh knowledge and revise detailed procedures ahead of operations.

The project is due to be launched in May 2021 at the World Health Assembly in Geneva.