Molding the future of trauma care in Africa

Dr Michael Wren shares his insights on the Basic Principles Course for trauma

In March 2017, the AO Alliance (AOA) and the Australian Doctors for Africa (ADFA) have again combined their efforts to advancing Ethiopian orthopedic and trauma care, in what is now the sixth year that a training course in basic orthopedic trauma principles and surgical skills has been run at the Black Lion Hospital (BLH) in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

Over the years, the course has progressively expanded in size. This year, 48 orthopedic trainees successfully completed the course, which is internationally recognized by the AO Foundation and the AOA. This group included all first-year trainees for the country, with 20 registrants from BLH, as well as 12 from St Paul’s Hospital, 8 from Mekelle University and 8 from Bahir Dar University.


The organizers and participants wish to extend their thanks to the two AOA orthopedic technicians, William Jenkins (Ghana) and Grant Slinger (South Africa), who, in good humor, rapidly turned workstations around and were trouble shooters for any problems. They were also assisted in their setup by BLH operating room nurse, Jerusalem, and by organizational efforts of the Head of Department, Professor Biruk Lambisso, and Dr Samuel Hailu.

In a happy twist of fate and an obvious measure of success of this collaborative initiative of the two organizations, Dr Ephrem Gebrehana, who attended as a trainee at the very first course in 2012 run by ADFA, is now, 5 years later, a member of the faculty. Other NGOs active in orthopedic delivery in Ethiopia also welcomed the invitation to participate this year. Dr Richard Gardner was very “happy to help!” ”“ a sentiment echoed by his colleagues from CURE Hospital Ethiopia, as well as by visiting orthopedic surgeon, Dr Babar Shafiq, on his first visit to Ethiopia from Baltimore, USA.


It was great to see inclusiveness and international cooperation cut both ways. At this year’s course, three first-year orthopedic trainees from South Sudan attended as participants. They expressed their gratitude for the opportunity to train in Ethiopia, thanks to assistance provided by the Ethiopian government.


There were many highlights to the event. As faculty, the greatest reward is to see enthusiasm and advancement in knowledge, as well as surgical skills development, throughout the course. As might be expected, participants were initially a little quiet and nervous about speaking to a large audience. By the end, the confidence to express a considered orthopedic opinion in public was rewarding to witness.

Practical training on the use of orthopedic tools and power equipment is always one of the favorite activities of the students. Proper technique and safety for both patients and staff is always strongly emphasized during the training.

The future of orthopedic and trauma care will be in the hands of what we now consider to be our young ones. On that basis, I think the future of orthopedic and trauma surgery in Ethiopia and South Sudan is looking bright.

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