Doctors get local training they can take overseas

January 26, 2012 7:35:32 PM PST
Doctors from UCSF are working to send their expertise worldwide. They're using a cutting-edge facility at San Francisco's General Hospital to train doctors from developing countries where the advanced skills could be life-saving.

Dr. Richard Gosselin trains young surgeons at UCSF's Orthopedic Trauma Institute at San Francisco General Hospital, but he's also been a force exporting that expertise, teaching doctors from developing countries as well.

"So we tailor, actually, the curriculum of the course, especially for these people to be exposed to procedures [and] techniques that they can do at home," said Gosselin.

Gosselin was one of the surgeons responsible for launching UCSF's Global Orthopedics Program five years ago. They've now trained more than 150 surgeons. We met one of them on a recent trip to the West African nation of Sierra Leone, which until recently, didn't have a single orthopedic surgeon.

Dr. D.J. Lavaly says the skills he brought back from San Francisco are badly needed at his crowded hospital.

"It's the only trauma center of its kind in the 6.8 million population of this nation," said Lavaly.

While the Orthopedic Trauma Institute is outfitted with state of the art equipment, it's rarely used in the training. Instead, surgeons focus on more advanced techniques for common procedures such as closing wounds.

"There's no fancy stuff. For example, we don't show them how to do free flaps or flaps that require micro-surgery," explained Gosselin. "We teach them very basic, fundamental, solid techniques that they can apply."

He believes benefits from the training are multiplied overseas as graduates now share information among hospitals and countries.

"It's helpful in knowing what's the latest, what's the most advanced and also to interact with world class surgeons who can give their insights about problems that we face here," said Lavaly.

While in Sierra Leone, Lavaly told us that aside from the advanced techniques, one of the most important things he learned at the Institute for Global Orthopedics and Traumatology was the art of bedside manner and how to communicate with patients.

Written and produced by Tim Didion.