Wednesday, March 23, 2011

8th Annual Anesthesiology Refresher Course

[UPDATE: The conference is over and, once again, our hosts put on a great course. The True Vine Hotel was the best venue yet, with more attendees, and a wider range of topics than ever before. Great job everyone - can't wait till next year.]

We've just confirmed the curriculum for our 8th Annual Refresher Course in Anesthesiology to be held March 31st and April 1st 2011 in Kumasi, Ghana.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Incomplete and biased.

Jury-rigged anesthesia machine
Recently one of my colleagues returned from a large teaching institution in the medically under-served world – let’s say West Africa. We visit this institution frequently and have done so for many years. What he found on this trip was disheartening, and he noted problems in a report for the hospital administration. None of these problems are novel to those who deliver anesthesia in under-served environments - there are plenty of national surveys in the literature reflecting similar shortages. However, I think his observations are a useful illustration of problems facing our colleagues in the under-served world, even when they work in a teaching institution that receives regular donations of equipment, manpower and personnel from abroad.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Ghost of a machine.

An editorial in The Ghanaian Chronicle caught my interest. Dr. Beeko, a local physician, discusses the balance between human expertise and medical technology. He makes a persuasive case for both, but his central points are:
  1. Technology can dramatically improve health care.
  2. Ghana has little medical equipment and should strive for more.
  3. The little they do have is falling apart and not maintained / repaired.
As anyone who has ever heard me talk on this subject is aware, I am a rabid proponent for human medical expertise over technology; and our organization operates under the philosophy that fancy equipment and drugs can never replace the expertise of a well-trained, knowledgeable physician / nurse. However, there is a basic level of equipment that must be met, especially in the surgical arena.

One of our group has just returned from a trip to West Africa, and I am currently preparing a post on his report. In it, he describes the appalling deterioration of the critical equipment in a large teaching hospital. We are concerned that this reflects the lack of understanding by the administration of the issues Dr. Beeko illuminates in his opinion piece.

Stay tuned.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Student humanitarian aid?

Photo courtesy of Doctor of Record
Here is a question: do medical student trips to developing nations do any good?

Although this has been on my mind for some time, it was brought into focus by an article by Crystal Hayling from The Center for Effective Philanthropy (I actually read it on Saundra Schimmelpfennig's blog Good Intentions Are Not Enough - highly recommended). The post in question was about a family who travelled to Cambodia to build a library and some houses. They were disgruntled when their project was taken out of their hands and directed by the local folk. Ms. Hayling astutely asks "Whose Volunteer Experience Is This Anyway?"

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

On "taking care of our own first".

Lately I have been seeing chain posts from some of my FaceBook acquaintances questioning why we send billions to "foreign" countries when we have poor, sick, starving people in "our own" countries.

Of course, individuals are free to contribute towards whatever (legal) cause takes their fancy, so I assume the issue under debate here is governmental aid contributions.