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Professor Kokila Lakhoo reports on the Francophone Africa meeting in Cameroon from 25 to 30 November 2023, which was represented by 10 central African countries. As well as giving a keynote speech and various talks, Professor Lakhoo and colleagues ran the BAPS HG neonatal skills course, Oxford Global Surgery research seminar and a BAPS-Oxford laparoscopic course.

Leading female paediatric surgeons in Francophone Africa, including Professor Kokila Lakhoo.
Leading female paediatric surgeons in Francophone Africa

The Oxford and BAPS faculty: Kokila Lakhoo, Dennis Mazingi, Gerlin Naidoo, Fungi Dengu, Soham Bandyopadhyay, Haitham Dagash and Lucy Henderson.The faculty included my research team (myself, Dennis Mazingi, Gerlin Naidoo, Fungai Dengu and Soham Bandyopadhyay) and two members from the BAPS (British Association of Paediatric Surgeons) international affairs committee (Haitham Dagash and Lucy Henderson). Gerlin Naidoo, Dennis Mazingi and I are members of BAPS-IAC as well. Lucy Henderson spoke French, and this was very helpful for ease of communication. The research team joined forces with the BAPS team to contribute as faculty to the neonatal skills course and laparoscopic course.

Research seminar

Three female participants listening to the female presenterThe research seminar had 21 participants mainly paediatric surgery trainees and a few newly qualified consultants. The ask was basic research skills. The seminar mainly concentrated on case report, case series and literature review skills. A three-person group was created and tasked to formulate a research question leading to a systematic review. The participants presented their work and wish to work on this in real time. Further discussions were had on other research methodologies and links and references on where such literature could be obtained. The feedback was very positive. They wish to have this seminar to continue online with the Oxford research team. The participants felt more confident in embracing research in their clinical work and had a rethink of their false assumption that research was for university staff only. The participants wish to work on their research question with continued online support from the Oxford research team.

HG Neonatal Skills Course

Participants in scrubs practising surgical skillsThe entire faculty with local help worked the day before to prepared sheep tissue from the local meat market and create models for the above course. This is a skilled based course in neonatal surgery. We had 20 participants ranging from core trainees to adult general and paediatric surgical trainees. The models covered bowel anastomosis, gastrostomies, duodenal atresia and repair of trachea-oesophageal fistula and oesophageal atresia. We did a pre and post-test which showed an average of 65% improvement and the feedback was again very positive with a request for video clips of each station. We also ran a training the trainer session parallel to the course to create a local faculty.

Laparoscopic Training

This we ran parallel to the two days conference, and we had enthusiasm from trainees and early years consultants. We had four trainer boxes with different levels of simulation models. Surprisingly, some very well-established senior consultants were keen to learn this new skill. The course ran for two whole days from 8am to 6pm and we had to peel some enthusiastic trainees off the trainers at the end of the day.

Two-day conference

Two participants being shown one of the trainer boxes.The conference was French based, but presentations were mixed in English and French. The francophones all understood English perfectly in a conference setting and all speak English but their main comfort language is French. We gave eight talks which included advocating for children’s surgery in the global health arena, neonatal upper bowel obstruction, paediatric trauma, neonatal lower bowel obstruction, neonatal neurosurgery, leadership in surgery, surgical training challenges and neonatal abdominal wall defects. The neonatal abdominal wall defects was given by Dr Lucy Henderson in French.

Most leading paediatric surgeons in Francophone Africa are females.

Part of the faculty continued to Ethiopia for the COSECSA meeting which included preconference courses and fellowship examinations.

This course was jointly funded by AFOX, KIDSOR and Hugh Greenwood Family (Children’s Research Fund).

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