After quite a few years of planning, a University approved training program in Plastic Surgery started in January 2012 at CoRSU Hospital in Kampala. This postgraduate training program is the only one of its kind in the whole vast East and Southern Africa Region. The trainee medics are based at CoRSU Rehabilitation Hospital, and working in partnership with CBM who is funding the training program and Mbarara University which is the academic institution where the training is based. Ultimately, the aim of the program is to develop a new department of Plastic Surgery in Mbarara and after 5 years the training program will be centred in the University.
2 keen students, Martin and Darius started in January 2012. It is a tough program with a huge amount to learn in the 3 years that the course will run. They have started really well, putting a lot of effort into the tutorials and the operative days. In the future it is hope that Interface will be able to support the program by assisting with some equipment, providing scholarships to enable the students to gain experience in other centres and by assisting in the travel costs of volunteer surgeons who will visit CoRSU to teach the students. Of course the continuing support that Interface is giving to patients will also help our students as they learn how to tackle challenging reconstructive problems.
Below is a lovely letter to Interface from Darius Balumaka – the trainee plastic surgeon who Interface has supported with a fellowship for 3 months prior to starting the CoRSU training programme.
I am a Ugandan male who had been working in the department of surgery in a Tanzanian hospital.
During my time in Tanzania ( 4years) we were faced with cases that needed reconstruction but we barely were able to give the patient what we thought they deserved. Mostly, we had to wait for the visiting interplast surgeons who would come once in 6 months.
By the time they got to the hospital, the contractures of the patients would have progressed to unimaginable limb contortion postures, and the defects that would need covering would have cost the patient a lot of time in hospital (meaning they missed the planting season), money (meaning they could not afford expensive surgeries or investigations), and emotional stress – this caused surgeons a lot of frustrations and sometimes a sense of inadequacy.
I heard about CoRSU and the fellowship of plastic surgery from a friend of mine who had met good Dr. Hodges at a conference. I emailed Dr. Hodges about the need to get some exposure to the plastic surgery, a sort of eye opener to the potential of learning the Art. I had applied for the MMed Plast from Mbarara university and had been offered the training post. The training was to be under Dr. Hodges.
After having been offered the fellowship, I could not afford a flat or transport to and from the hospital, plus feeding costs. Since I was already in Uganda, I discussed with Dr. Hodges who told me about Interface Uganda and how they would be willing to help for the duration of the fellowship.
Through funding from Interface, I was able to live comfortably and concentrated on the fellowship, which included working on patients on the wards, doing the ward rounds with the consultants, assisting in the operating theatres and following up the patients in the clinic.
This made me realize there was a lot that could have been done for the patients in the hospital I was working in before, and also most of the patients stayed for a time period of about 3 days, with the longest staying patients spending about 2 weeks – this fascinated me and inspired me, because I kept on remembering all the patients in Tanzania who had to wait for 6 months for the interplast surgeons, who spent only two weeks operating.
The fellowship also made me have a head start on the plastic surgery masters program, so I didn’t have to spend the first few months being fascinated, but instead learn the lovely art of reconstruction and restoration of function .
I would lastly like to thank Interface Uganda for having helped me during that time and making it easy for me to concentrate on what I considered important – minus their help I doubt I would have been as enthusiastic as I am now.
I am hoping to become a plastic surgeon in three years and also help train more surgeons and treat more patients.
Dr. balumuka d. darius
Resident Plastic and Reconstrutive surgery, Mbarara University of Science and Technology.