|Supporting skills - delivering the BSS for Palestinian trainees|
|Monday, 20 June 2011|
In May, 19 junior doctors from hospitals across the West Bank travelled to Augusta Victoria Hospital in East Jerusalem for the RCSEd’s two-day Basic Surgical Skills course. Although it lasted just two days, the planning and organisation for the course was a major task that started with a family trip to the West Bank in 2009 by course organisers Robin and Magdalena Kincaid.
Robin Kincaid, an orthopaedic consultant at the Royal Cornwall Hospital, observed: ‘On a professional level it was apparent that surgical trainees would benefit from contact with the outside professional community as well as the skills taught in a formalised setting, such as the BSS Course.’
In June 2010, Robin and Magdalena contacted the College, highlighting the urgent need for such a course in the West Bank. Magdalena, a staff grade surgeon also at the Royal Cornwall, was also aware of the region’s particular need for this kind of training: ‘The relevance of basic surgical training in any context is indisputable; in the case of the West Bank junior surgeons it is made even more acute by the long time ambulances can take to transport acute cases to larger hospitals for definitive treatment, due to checkpoints. In this environment, it is essential that junior surgeons operating in small peripheral hospitals have a good standard of suturing and haemostasis.’
The Kincaids also contacted Dr Umaiyeh Khammash, the UN’s Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) Chief Health Officer in the West Bank, who confirmed what they thought all along: formalised basic surgical training would greatly benefit Palestinian junior surgeons because there is no similar training course in the region. Contacting the RCSEd in support of the idea, Dr Khammash said: ‘Continuous professional development is chronically hampered in the oPt by the foreign travel restrictions for Palestinian surgeons. This course will provide a golden opportunity for technical exposure and will result in enhancing the performance of professionals.’
Three months after the initial approach, the Kincaids received a letter from David Smith, Director of Education, confirming that the College would support the event.
Having secured the RCSEd’s help, in December 2010 Robin and Magdalena travelled to Jerusalem and Ramallah to discuss the venue, dates and recruitment of participants. They met with surgeons at Augusta Victoria Hospital and with the Juzoor Foundation (a Palestinian NGO) and Ministry of Health in Ramallah.
The biggest hurdle for the Kincaids was to secure funding for equipment and travel for the seven members of the faculty; for months, sending emails requesting support became part of their daily routine. However, persistence paid off and a number of well-known medical supplies companies came forward. Magdalena recalls: ‘An incredibly generous donation arrived from Karl Storz Endoskope, of a complete camera stack, two telescopes and the laparoscopic trainer box with a complete set of instruments.’
This was followed by Nobel Medical donating the Ethicon suture packs, which were put together especially for the course in Dubai, then shipped to Amman before being brought to Jerusalem by Nobel Medical’s Marketing Director. UNRWA and Juzoor funded the animal tissue and course materials, tutor accommodation as well as all airport transfers. Augusta Victoria Hospital also provided the dissection kits and the wet room and conference room.’
However, a problem emerged when the Kincaids failed to secure funding for air travel for the five members of the teaching faculty. Not to be deterred, the enthusiastic faculty members came to the rescue by funding their own travel to Jerusalem.
So why did the Kincaids choose the RCSEd’s BSS course? Robin has strong links with Edinburgh, having graduated from the city’s University and becoming an RCSEd Fellow in 1996. However, Magdalena points out that the decision ultimately came down to the College’s reputation for reaching out to initiate international links and its strong commitment to training: ‘I had first-hand experience of the intense support for surgical training at the RCSEd, both early on in my surgical training through research projects and presentations at College meetings, and during my undergraduate years in Dundee.’
She continues, ‘I was aware of the very successful format of the two-day course offered by the RCSEd and of the extensive dedicated facilities in the Surgical Skills lab at the College. In addition, both Robin and I had read about the BSS course for Iraqi trainees, in July 2009, run under the auspices of the RCSEd in Istanbul.’
Following an overwhelming response from the course students, the Kincaids are already planning a second diet in 2012 and are working on a new campaign to secure funding and support. Unsurprisingly, they have already had expressions of interest from RCSEd Fellows who would like to be part of next year’s faculty.
Read Magdalena Kincaid’s blog at: http://blogs.bmj.com/bmj/2011/06/02/magdalena-kincaid-surgical-training-in-palestine/