THE KENYAN FELLOWSHIP PROGRAM

The Baird Institute is in the process of raising funds for an ongoing rolling fellowship to support a 2-year registrar placement of a Kenyan cardiothoracic surgical trainee at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital in Camperdown, Sydney.   All funds donated as part of the Kenyan Fellowship campaign will go towards building the financial reserves necessary to fund the fellowship program on an ongoing basis.  Our hope is that the first trainee will commence this year. (Below is a link to our news item introducing the first program participants. The mission of The Baird Institute – “to foster research and apply science to improve the outcomes of patients facing heart or lung surgery” – has always been about advancing cardiac surgical knowledge. Our goal is to enhance and facilitate the latest surgical technology through utilisation and exchange of information globally.

Meet our first surgical recruits

Dr Fredrick Mitema

Dr Nikita Mehta

In 2015, The Lancet, the world’s leading independent general medical journal, published an article entitled, Global Surgery 2030: evidence and solutions for achieving health, welfare, and economic development”.  It was stated here that remarkable gains have been made in global health in the past 25 years, but progress has not been uniform. Mortality and morbidity from common conditions needing surgery have grown in the world’s poorest regions, including Kenya.  At the same time, the development of safe, essential, life-saving surgical and anaesthesia care in low-income and middle-income countries (LMICs) has stagnated or regressed. In the absence of surgical care, fatality rates are high for common, easily treatable conditions.

Kenya is facing an emerging cardiovascular disease (CVD) epidemic.  CVD is likely to become the nation’s largest health problem in the next decade and will place significant strain on the health care system and on the economy as a whole.  The ideal ratio of cardiac surgeon to population is somewhere around 1:160,000, whereas in Kenya, it is a staggering 1:500,000.  Kenya is over 50 years behind Western Economies in their treatment of CVD.

The authors of The Lancet suggest that strong leaders and change agents are needed within the surgical workforce at a local, national, and international level to advance surgical and anaesthesia care and to improve education and training. The Baird Institute is not able to solve the global issue but we can and are at present attempting to tackle the issue in Kenya and by our involvement, acting as ‘agents of change’.

The Lancet article draws our attention to 5 key points in regards to global health:

  • 5 billion people do not have access to safe, affordable surgical and anaesthesia care when needed
  • 143 million additional surgical procedures are needed each year to save lives and prevent disability
  • 33 million individuals face catastrophic health expenditure due to payment for surgery and anaesthesia each year.
  • Investing in surgical services is affordable, saves lives, and promotes economic growth
  • Surgery is an indivisible, indispensable part of health care. Surgical services are a prerequisite for the full attainment of local and global health goals in areas as diverse as cardiovascular disease, cancer and injury.

Five years ago, the University of Nairobi commenced a cardiovascular and thoracic surgical training program, where successful trainees are awarded a Master of Medicine in Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery.  However, as a developing country, Kenya is unable to meet all training and resource requirements, with the result that trainees are not exposed to certain important aspects of cardiothoracic practise.  This is critical for the development of an effective and sustainable Kenyan cardiothoracic surgical service and thus why The Baird Institute has stepped in to assist.

Our relationship with the University of Nairobi, forms strong links to Kenya

Through our relationship with the University of Nairobi, we assist with the development of curricula for The University of Nairobi’s cardiovascular and thoracic surgical training program and with the training of their surgeons.  In addition, we provide travelling scholarships to Kenyan cardiothoracic fellows who come to Australia to observe and learn about the work done by our surgeons. Dr Mark Awori from the University of Nairobi, was the first Kenyan surgeon to come to Sydney with The Baird Institute.  Dr Awori spent 2 years here and then returned to Kenya to set up the surgical training program at the University of Nairobi.

The Baird Institute does not want to teach the Kenyan surgical trainees to be high-end heart surgeons, but we do need to support them in the development of their program at the University of Nairobi and in the development of their skills.  While in Australia, the surgical trainees won’t be just operating in a hospital, they will have access to the surgical skills laboratory and to our research facility.  In addition, they will be taught the basics of data collection, to do research and to develop a curriculum so that they can return home as a fundamentally well-rounded  surgeon, with the skills necessary to tackle the issues specific to their home country.  Surgery is an indispensable part of health care – it is not just for the rich!

The scientific future of The Baird Institute is bright and exciting and its continued success will have a huge impact on the health and wellbeing of millions.  We hope to get the support of many so as to help turn around Kenya’s emerging cardiovascular epidemic.

Please take a look at our interview with Dr Nikita Mehta and Dr Fredrick Mitema

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