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BFIRST BSSH Overseas Day 2019 Summary

The 3rd Overseas Day Symposium was held on Friday 13th September 2019 at the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh in conjunction with the British Foundation for International Reconstructive Surgery & Training. The topic of the day was Effective Teaching across Cultures in Global Surgery. The Symposium was chaired by Sarah Tucker and Jonathan Jones.

The day commenced with welcoming talks from Mr Jonathan Jones and the outgoing Chair of BFIRST Mr Wee Lam. The first session of the day was chaired by Ms Barbara Jemec and Mr Jonathan Jones. This included a variety of surgical trainees and consultants from both orthopaedic and plastic surgery presenting their current overseas projects from across eleven countries. Amongst the various topics discussed in these presentations, similar themes of assuring that the needs of the locality were understood and met and assuring sustainability of training were raised.



The next session was chaired by Mr Stephen Hodgson and Mr David Bell and included three inspiring lectures regarding ‘Effective raining in the cultural context of my surgical training’. The first lecture was delivered by Dr Peter Mwandiga from Tanzania and called our attention to the importance of the cultural context in surgical training, in particular understanding the local use of both verbal and non-verbal communication. Following this Dr Faith Muchemwa delivered an incredible lecture discussing the challenges and goals of overseas projects to local hospitals in Zimbabwe and how to ensure the best outcomes for patients.  Mr David Bell completed this series of talks highlighting his experiences in Sudan and discussed the need for flexibility to effectively teach across cultures. Ms Sarah Tucker, the incoming Chair of the BFIRST, co-ordinated an incredible activity which continued to address these key issues. Titled ‘Making the right first impression: How do you say hello?’  this exercise saw attendees greet each other in a number of different languages again showcasing the importance of acceptance and respect.



Following this the session focused on culture and effective teaching, chaired by Mr Jeremy Stanton and Ms Sarah Tucker saw Dr Warren Beattie deliver a lecture on ‘Cultural Factors in Global Surgical Training. This fascinating lecture again highlighted the importance of ensuring ones understanding of a localities culture, drawing our particular attention to language and customs that are experienced overseas. Mr Wee Lam, Ms Zaviara Heinze and Ms Nadine Hachach-Haram drew our focus to ‘Making use of technology in Global Surgical Training’ to ensure we maximise opportunities when training surgeons overseas.  Consultant Neurosurgeon Mr Riken Trivedi then delivered an insightful lecture titled ‘Meausring effectiveness of teaching’ highlighting lessons learned from the field of improving Traumatic Brain Injury outcomes in low and middle income countries.

The final session of the day was chaired by Mr Jonathon Jones, Mr Matt Fell and Ms Sarah Tucker. It involved talks from hand therapists Ms Roma Bhopal, Ms Meryl  Glover and Ms Pascalle Smith titled ‘Hand Therapy Training- adapting to differing needs’ These talks once again highlighted the need for flexibility and adaptability to effectively teach across cultures ,especially where resources were low,  with a number of hand splints made from a variety of materials showcased .  Finally Mr Conrad Harrison and a panel of surgical trainees from the BFIRST committee discussed the Trainees perspective and emphasis was drawn on the need to ensure responsibility and continuity when planning trips overseas as a trainee.



Overall, this Symposium highlighted that although expertise in leadership and management are needed to provide effective surgical training overseas, the subtleties of understanding culture and its context are vital to ensuring effective teaching across cultures in Global Surgery.

 Shahjahan Aslam
Year 5 Medical Student
Keele University


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