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The Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh will fund the training of an additional surgeon each year as part of the in-country initiative led by UNC’s Anthony Charles, MD, MPH.

Anthony Charles, MD, MPH, with Vanessa Nsosa, Malawian Surgical Initiative Resident
Anthony Charles and Graham Layer

The Malawian Surgical Initiative, a collaboration between the UNC Department of Surgery, Kamuzu Central Hospital in Lilongwe, Malawi, and the Malawi College of Medicine in Blantyre, Malawi, has secured a partnership with the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh in Scotland, which will fund the training of additional Malawian surgeons.

The goal of the Malawian Surgical Initiative is to train Malawians in country so that they are more likely to stay and practice there. In the past, the Malawian government has paid for surgical trainees to go to South Africa or Europe to receive their training. Many never returned home.

So far, the Malawian Surgical Initiative has trained 16 Malawian residents, with eight currently in various stages of the five-year program.

The Malawian Surgical Initiative supports the training of three surgeons per year, but a newly established partnership with the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh, will fund the training of an additional resident each year.

“In the United States it’s easy to say that training one more surgeon per year is merely a drop in the bucket, but in Malawi, training an additional surgeon per year really changes things,” said Anthony Charles, MD, MPH, head of the Malawian Surgical Initiative. “Looking forward 20 years, this partnership will allow for 15 additional surgeons to be working in Malawi, with five more still in training. That’s a game changer for the country.”

Malawi, a country of more than 18 million people, currently has less than 50 trained surgeons.

The Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh is the oldest and largest of the UK’s surgical royal colleges, boasting more than 25,000 surgeons practicing in more than 100 countries.

In 2005, the governments of Scotland and Malawi entered a cooperation agreement designed for the mutual benefit of each country. So, when the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh set out to expand its work in global surgery, Malawi was a natural fit. Recognizing UNC’s extensive presence in the country, the Royal College was interested in finding opportunities for collaboration.

“Since UNC was already in Malawi, the Royal College felt that rather than reinventing the wheel, they perhaps could partner with a group already there to make both sides better,” said Charles.

Charles and others from UNC traveled to Edinburgh in March of 2017 to meet with leaders from the Royal College and discuss opportunities for the institutions to partner. Graham Layer, DM, MA, Vice President of the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh, then traveled to Malawi in June of 2017 to witness firsthand the work being done, an experience that ultimately led to the formalization of this partnership.

“The Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh is committed to expanding access to surgery across the globe. Training and experience in country is vital to making this happen,” said Layer. “Our exciting partnership with UNC is a significant step in the College’s commitment to developing global surgery. Building surgical capacity in Malawi, for Malawi, will allow us to share our experience and resources to create a lasting legacy of surgical care for local patients.”

Read more about the Malawian Surgical Initiative here and here.