Over the past year, ReSurge was not able to facilitate international travel or in-person training due to the pandemic. Despite the setbacks, we were able to create a robust virtual learning program and kick-off our ReSurge International Program in Africa (RIPA) in full. Even so, we were still eager to get back out into the field. And so, a small team of ReSurge staff and volunteers made their first voyage back in November to see some of our local partners.
Last week, Chief Program Officer Natalie Meyers, shared a reflection on the first part of that adventure–a trip to Kenya to meet our newest Surgical Outreach Partner. Read on for the next adventure in that journey–a trip to Zimbabwe to meet the next generation of reconstructive surgeons and ReSurge scholars in Eastern, Southern, and Central Africa!
Zimbabwe & The Program Directors Meeting
After a successful week in Kenya, the second leg of our trip we headed to Zimbabwe to support the College of Surgeons of Eastern, Southern, and Central Africa (COSECSA) to conduct their plastic and reconstructive surgery oral exams for trainees from across the continent and to host the COSECSA Program Directors Meeting.
Thanks to generous RIPA donations, ReSurge was able to sponsor Dr. Dagmawi Desta, Dr. Ephrem Tekaligne, and Dr. Fikru Sima to cover their exam fees, travel costs, and, with the successful passing of their boards, 5 years of COSCESA membership. All three Ethiopian surgeons were incredibly grateful to be able to attend and take their exams, as this last hurdle to becoming a certified reconstructive surgeon had eluded them in the previous year due to lack of funding.
Two additional ReSurge one-month study exchange students also sat for their boards, one student from Ethiopia and another from Tanzania. Dr. Adeliade Mghase, the Tanzanian ReSurge scholar, will be the first female reconstructive surgeon in her country. Dr. Owen Muzinda, from Zimbabwe, one of Dr. Chang’s mentees, received the highest board score in the region. This will be the second year in a row that a ReSurge mentee wins this highest honor, with Dr. Tinga Nyoni receiving the award last year. Everyone was thrilled that all 10 trainees passed their exams, and thus, 10 new reconstructive surgeons in the ECSA region!
While in Zimbabwe for the exams and meeting, the team was also able to see ReSurge’s newest eLearning Center at Parirenyatwa Hospital. The center was generously donated in honor of Rick Compton, and we are looking forward to continuing Dr. Chang’s monthly case conferences so that we can keep our streak of churning out the highest performing reconstructive surgical trainees in the region!
After the conclusion of the exams, ReSurge sponsored and hosted the 11 COSECSA Reconstructive Surgery Program Directors from across the six countries with training programs. It was an incredible opportunity for these founding doctors in reconstructive surgery in their respective countries to convene in one place. Dr. Chang, ReSurge’s CMO and Chief of the Division of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery at Stanford Medicine, rallied an impressive group of virtual attendees and prestigious American academic partners representing Northwestern, University of Washington, Johns Hopkins, and Stanford Medicine. The attendees discussed the current landscape of reconstructive training and residency programs in each of their countries and hospitals. The group further worked on the development of the COSECSA-wide reconstructive surgery online curriculum that will involve 26 modules, each with 60-90 minute recorded lectures, 10 test questions, and local cases for discussion. This work is being led by ReSurge’s current Laub Fellow, Dr. Lawrence Cai who was also able to join for the Zimbabwean portion of our trip. Stay tuned for an upcoming blog post about this work!
In collaboration with our US academic partners and the COSECSA Program Directors, the plan is to complete the curriculum and to have it on the COSECSA eLearning platform by the end of 2022. ReSurge’s curriculum will now be the foundation for all trainees across the entire region. At the conclusion of the meeting, all trainees, now newly minted reconstructive surgeons, joined their Program Directors in a celebratory dinner at the Rainbow Towers Hotel in Harare. ReSurge looks forward to hosting an in-person Train the Trainers Conference again in 2022.
The Last Unexpected Obstacle: Omicron
As we sat back satisfied with the success of our trip and just starting the long journey back to the US, at our very first layover in South Africa more COVID news broke out. There we sat on the tarmac for 90 minutes while flight attendants in frantic whispers, tried to figure out if our flight would still be allowed into the UK as the world had just announced the latest discovery of the Omicron variant and a new string of travel bans. Thankfully our South African layover was one of the very last flights allowed into the UK and eventually back to the US. All travelers isolated when they were home, tested regularly, and are safe and COVID-free. Given the new travel restrictions for Africa, the ReSurge volunteers and staff were especially grateful to get to visit our partners and colleagues in person, making the return to Zoom calls all that much easier to continue our successful partnership and work in Africa.