Despite the dangers, more and more physicians are drawn to working in impoverished or strife-torn areas where medical care is rudimentary yet the needs are overwhelming. But few possess the skills to operate under such harsh conditions.
On June 4 and 5, a dozen doctors from around the country take part in the Colorado Humanitarian Surgical Skills Workshop at the Center for Surgical Innovation on the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus.
The Center for Surgical Innovation is a multi-disciplinary training center dedicated to promoting education courses for surgeons around the world. From 2015-2016, it trained over 4,000 surgeons.
This unique program will teach senior surgical and obstetrics residents how to perform surgery in low-resource environments without high-tech surgical tools. They will learn how to do a craniotomy with a handsaw, hernia repair without mesh and skin grafts using hand blades rather than electrical ones.
“This is the only humanitarian training course for surgical residents in the country,” said David Kuwayama, MD, MPA, a vascular surgeon at CU Anschutz and director of global health in the department of surgery. He has also worked with Doctors Without Borders and other humanitarian groups in developing countries, disaster zones and areas of conflict.
The work is often dangerous. Last October, 30 people were killed at a Doctors Without Borders/ Médecins Sans Frontières hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan when an American AC-130 gunship opened fire at what they thought were Taliban fighters. Other hospitals supported by the group have been attacked in Idlib, Aleppo, and Hama governorates in Syria, forcing at least three to close down.
But it’s done nothing to quell enthusiasm for humanitarian medical work.
“There is a wellspring of interest now in global health despite the often difficult situations,” Kuwayama said. “More and more people want to make it part of their careers but there are few training opportunities.”
Kuwayama held a pilot program last year with just four senior surgical residents to gauge outside interest. This year, they have increased that to 12 residents. The workshop will be taught by attending physicians from CU Anschutz and will cover general surgery, vascular surgery, orthopedic surgery, neurosurgery and OBGYN.
“While working abroad, I found that American doctors often lack the skills to work in these often tough environments,” Kuwayama said. “Our goal is to provide those skills so they are prepared for whatever the situation calls for.”
What: The Colorado Humanitarian Surgical Skills Workshop
Where: The Center for Surgical Innovation, University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus, Aurora, Colo.
When: June 4 & 5 from 7:30 a.m. – 5 p.m.
More information: Interested media are invited to attend the lectures. For more information please contact David Kelly, 303-503-7990, [email protected]