International doctors get surgical training in SF

September 17, 2012 8:40:27 PM PDT
Some expertise being shared in the Bay Area this week could soon be saving lives around the world. It's part of a program that trains surgeons in techniques that are as practical as they are advanced.

The surgeons crowded into a training suite at San Francisco General Hospital's trauma institute have seen far more than their share of violent wounds. At his clinic in Kabul, Afghanistan Hedayatullah Hedayat, M.D., treats victims injured by everything from car accidents to roadside bombs.

"It's built for war victims and we are receiving mostly war victims," said Hedayat.

Hedayat and more than 60 other surgeons from around the world are learning advanced techniques for closing wounds, saving limbs and blood vessels, and ultimately lives.

"To manage these wounds as best as possible and eventually close them, these people need to have what we call flaps. Meaning you take some tissue from some place and bring it to cover a problem somewhere else," said Richard Gosselin, M.D., a surgeon from UCSF and San Francisco General Hospital.

We met Gosselin last year as we were preparing for a series of stories in the West African nation of Sierra Leone, where he's trained doctors on site. But he says the model of bringing surgeons from the developing world to a centralized location amplifies the effect of the teaching.

"A lot of the attendees here are the equivalent of university professors back home. So they have students of their own, they have colleagues and there's a multiplier effect where they go back home and they teach what they've learned," said Richard Gosselin, M.D. / UCSF, San Francisco General Hospital

The class of 62 surgeons, from 17 countries, is the largest in the project's history. Instructors from several California hospitals including Stanford also volunteered to help with the courses.

"We're limited by our space at this point. I think that what we try to change each year is really the program itself to make exactly what they can take back and use in their country," said Scott Hansen, M.D., from UCSF and San Francisco General Hospital.

For Edmund Eliezer, M.D., that often means treating victims of car accidents, which are becoming an epidemic as parts of Africa grow and new roads are built. In his home country of Tanzania, he says the toll is often higher infectious diseases.

"The amount of people that die from malaria and road traffic injuries is almost equal," said Eliezer.

The course runs three days and most of the surgeons will be returning home on Wednesday, bringing new skills to areas that desperately need them.

"It gives us great pleasure to teach them things that they can bring back and use immediately," said Hansen.

The program is officially known as the Institute For Global Orthopedics and Traumatology. It was started nearly six years ago by UCSF and has trained hundreds of surgeons worldwide in that time.

Written and produced by Tim Didion


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