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Safe anaesthesia and respiratory solutions for limited resource settings

Guest blog

A Global Gathering for Safe Anaesthesia

Publication date: 5 Dec 2017

The faces peering out of the bus windows are variously excited, apprehensive, hot, curious and tired from a day’s travel, writes Dr Hilary Edgcombe.

A Global Gathering for Safe Anaesthesia

They have travelled from the UK, the Netherlands, Finland, New Zealand, the US, Kenya and Zambia to Kampala, Uganda’s capital, then onward by bus to Mbale, a pleasant town in the country’s eastern region, nestling at the foot of Mount Elgon.

Who Attended

Undeterred (or not much) by potholes, mosquitoes and the rainy season, these are anaesthetists at all stages of training and practice, from many different health care systems, but with a common interest in the safe delivery of anaesthesia in low-resource settings.

Some have extensive experience, others just an initial curiosity. Some have specific plans to work with MSF or another partner organisation, others are just dipping a toe in the water. Over a week, despite these disparities, they will get to know one another, and the challenges of safe surgical care in the majority world, very well indeed.

It has been my privilege to direct the Anaesthesia in Developing Countries (ADC) course for the last seven years, following in the footsteps of Dr Mike Dobson, who originally had the vision and determination to develop the course. 


A Global Gathering for Safe Anaesthesia

Dr Mike Dobson delivers a lecture on the course

From Origins to Now

It ran in Oxford from 1981 until 2007, when Mike moved the location to Kampala, Uganda, with the invaluable assistance of Dr Sarah Hodges and a dedicated faculty.

More recently a connection with Dr Adam Hewitt-Smith, an anaesthetist in Mbale, has enabled us to run the course in that town (escaping the Kampala traffic) both last year and this.

The week is crammed – lectures, seminars, practical workshops, lively debates, hospital visits and by no means least, the informal networking and learning which goes on in all directions around the edges of the course.

Broad Opportunities

It is this last aspect which seems to reap the greatest dividends and I am often delighted to hear of links made and built on as a result of meeting on an ADC course.

From my point of view, the week itself speeds by in a blur: logistics, financial administration, day-to-day troubleshooting, time-keeping and even a little active teaching from time to time, mean that all too soon the faculty are sitting around a table for the final meeting to compare feedback and develop ideas for the next course together at the end of the week.

The course faculty are variously from Africa (Zambia, Uganda and Kenya) and the UK, and teach with consistently high quality, innovation and enthusiasm. It is always a joy to work with them to deliver this course.


A Global Gathering for Safe Anaesthesia
Mount Elgon is clearly visible from the venue for the course

Great Scope for Learning
As always, it seems to me that I learn more each year, not least from the delegates who come with such wide experience and enthusiasm.
This year’s highlights included learning a few new yoga techniques (incorporated with great success into a seminar by Dr Jo James) and improving my skills in delegation (there is still considerable scope for improvement).
Although the week is a long time in preparation, it is over all too soon.
The bus is re-packed for the return to Kampala with a group of anaesthetists who now know each other well, who are equipped with links, knowledge, skills and ideas to contribute to safer anaesthesia care worldwide, and who are ready for one or two potholes on the way home.
If you are interested in finding out more about the Anaesthesia in Developing Countries course, click here.
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