Online training for medics

THE annual Eyabantwana for the Children Trust’s lecture at the East London Health and Resource Centre recently was given by visiting Professor Alp Numanoglu, who focused on the role of technology in the medical field.

As Charles F M Saint Professor, head of surgical division at the University of Cape Town (UCT) and Red Cross Children’s Hospital, Professor Numanoglu shared his knowledge on the use of technology in medical training.

SHARING KNOWLEDGE: Visiting Professor Alp Numanoglu gives the annual Eyabantwana for the Children Trust’s lecture in East London, emphasising the important role of technology in medical training Picture: MADELEINE CHAPUT

Professor Charles F M Saint was a visionary surgeon whose stature in the South African surgical community is legendary.

Emphasising the benefits of simulation-based and web- based training and learning, Numanoglu informed the audience of the great need to train people in specialised fields such as paediatric surgery around South Africa as well as the rest of the African continent.

Web-based training is where students or young surgeons can watch a live surgery or be taught by top surgeons from anywhere in the world on how to treat certain medical situations they have never encountered.

“In South Africa, we are fortunate to have 48 qualified paediatric surgeons, but even that is not enough to meet the needs of patients and these specialists are predominantly situated in big cities,” Numanoglu said.

Other African countries such as Malawi and Namibia are not so fortunate, having as few as two specialists for the entire country. This is where web- based training becomes revolutionary.

“What web-based training and learning can do is help to teach and train a surgeon in a resource-limited area, giving him or her the ability to perform certain specialised operations to help and even save children’s lives in the area.”

Professor Numanoglu said this sort of web-based training did not replace hands-on medical training, but added a tremendous amount of support and enhanced existing training methods.

With various online training courses, lectures, meetings and live surgeries, UCT is at the forefront of this web-based training in the medical field in South Africa, reaching thousands of people across the world.

Paediatric surgeon Dr Milind Chitnis, of Frere Hospital, and a trustee of the Eyabantwana Trust, has attended many online meetings, gained and shared knowledge through the UCT network. “It’s wonderful that such pioneering work is being done in our country. There are so many great possibilities with web-based training and there is a great need for it,” Chitnis said.

The goal is to connect Frere Hospital to hospitals and clinics in rural areas in an effort to aid surgeons in these remote areas.

“Demonstrations can take place in an economic manner connecting many hospitals to one professor or surgeon’s lesson,” Chitnis said.

“Our main limitation, however, is the lack of broadband connection. Our hospital server at Frere is too weak to take the online meetings.”

The Eastern Cape is lucky enough to have four qualified paediatric surgeons, but this is still only a fraction of the specialists needed for the number of patients in need of specialised care in the province.

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