A critical component of ReSurge’s mission is to foster international collaborations. Effective surgical training cannot be constricted to one environment—it is the intersection of cultures, institutions, and personalities that promote advances in plastic and reconstructive surgery.
Dr. Chihena Banda, a ReSurge scholar and the first Zambian plastic surgeon in the country, is committed to providing top-notch reconstructive oncological care to his community. Due to the lack of a national reconstructive training program in Zambia, ReSurge supported Dr. Banda’s training at the prestigious Cancer Center in Tokyo, Japan.
Increasing Cancer Rates in Zambia
Zambia has experienced a boom in cancer cases, which is accompanied by a corresponding increase in the number of patients requiring reconstructive care for oncological health. Dr. Banda wants to be prepared for this impending shift and is arming himself with the tools needed to provide effective reconstructive care. Dr. Banda had the opportunity to conduct his fellowship at the Cancer Institute Hospital of the Japan Foundation for Cancer Research (JFCR) under the supervision of Dr. Tomoyuki Yano.
In just two weeks at the JFCR, Dr. Banda observed over 15 surgical cases. Interestingly, even though 10 of the cases were all breast reconstruction cases, Dr. Banda noted, “each of the patients had unique comorbidities that often necessitated modification of standard techniques and utilization of less common flaps…enhanc[ing] my confidence to anticipate and manage such atypical cancer patients in [the] future”. In addition to focusing on surgical techniques during his time at JFCR, Dr. Banda was also able to hone his research skills and investigative mindset, exchanging ideas about tissue regeneration with the faculty.
For Dr. Banda, this fellowship also provided a key opportunity to step outside of his surgical comfort zone and think ahead to what type of leader he wants to be for his team in Zambia.
“Oncologic reconstruction, particularly reconstructive microsurgery, is laborious work. [You need a team of] surgeons, trainees, nurses and other team members who share similar passion for patient care and are motivated to perform the long and sometimes challenging reconstruction procedures, ” Dr. Banda shared.
A Future Dream
Dr. Banda is keen to go back to Zambia and create a coalition of microsurgeons in the East, Central, Southern Africa (ECSA) region with these values in mind. Dr. Banda hopes to start concrete programs to improve microsurgery cross-collaboration, including a robust free flap registry, widely available microsurgery courses, a training lab dedicated to reconstructive skills, and long-term fellowship opportunities. He hopes these programs will bring the region one step closer to connecting with reconstructive surgeons on a global scale.
Currently under the mentorship of ReSurge Consulting Medical Officer, Dr. James Chang, Dr. Banda is working to start the first plastic and reconstructive surgery residency program in Zambia so future generations won’t have to seek training abroad as he did.
Written by Vaibhavi Shah, ReSurge Medical Student Volunteer