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Queen’s partners on West African surgical education program

Queen’s partners on West African surgical education program

Dr. Sulaiman Nanji sees education as central to improving global cancer care. Case in point, a Queen’s partnership to develop a new surgical oncology fellowship program in West Africa.   

Queen’s Global Oncology and Global Surgery teams and the West African College of Surgeons (WACS) are codeveloping a postgraduate fellowship to train surgeons to respond to the rapidly growing demands for cancer care. 

Dr. Nanji, the Queen’s team project lead, discusses the vision behind the program below: 

Q: What is the end goal of this project? 

A: To collaboratively develop a competency-based surgical oncology fellowship program to train general surgeons in 18 countries in West Africa – representing one third of the continent’s population. 

Q: What problems do you want to solve through your research? 

A: The mortality rates for many curable cancers is almost parallel to the number of cases in these countries. People are needlessly dying from treatable cancers because they do not have access to surgical care. This project will increase the number and distribution of surgical oncologists in the region. We also anticipate that it will produce surgical leaders who can grow capacity for comprehensive care that is responsive to the growing need for surgical oncology services, and sensitive to the socioeconomic, cultural, and health resource considerations in West Africa.   

Q: What are the next steps? 

A: Our co-developed curriculum outlining the structure and content of the program has been developed. We have also conducted detailed on-site needs assessments to fully evaluate the capacity to deliver the training as we transition towards implementation. The goal is to be ready to launch the fellowship program within the next year at seven flagship centers across three countries. Along with training, work is underway to develop cancer databases and research registries to better understand the factors around different types of cancer and why they might be occurring. Ultimately, the goal is to assess the curriculum for adaptability and then scale the program to support surgeons across the continent. 

Q: Who are you collaborating with? 

A: This project will involve many educators, scholars, and surgeons, and promises to offer many rewarding reciprocal learning opportunities. The initial proposal was jointly developed by WACS, Global Oncology and the Office of Professional Development and Educational Scholarship (OPDES) within Queen’s Health Sciences. We have received seed funding of $63,000 from the Queen’s Department of Surgery and from the SEAMO Global Development Fund. 

Q: What kind of impact do you hope that your research will have? 

A: This project is all about sharing knowledge and collaborating to advance equity and accessibility to cancer care. In order to be successful, we need to ensure that our curriculum aligns with local resources, policies, and surgical capacity. We anticipate that the co-creation of this surgical oncology fellowship program will close the educational gaps and empower West African surgical oncologists with knowledge, skills, and resources needed to provide comprehensive, accurate, timely, appropriate cancer care. 

An Associate Professor, Dr. Nanji is the surgical lead within Queen’s Global Oncology program, a group of healthcare experts focused on improving equity and accessibility of cancer care in low- and middle-income countries. He has also established a Global Surgery Program within the Department of Surgery.   

- With files from the Department of Surgery  

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