Medical students, faculty to benefit from new centre

Postgraduate medical students in Rwanda stand to benefit from the new Africa-based L’Institut de Recherche Contre les Cancers de l’Appareil Digestif, or IRCAD, that will provide advanced training in minimally invasive surgery for professionals from across the continent.

The IRCAD Africa Center of Excellence in the capital, Kigali, which was launched recently, was created as an independent non-profit Rwandan foundation, through a partnership between IRCAD France and the Rwandan government.

According to officials, it is tasked with advancing surgical skills in minimally invasive surgeries (MIS), as well as enhancing the quality of surgical care and improving patient outcomes. Minimal invasive surgery focuses on the specialisation areas of urology, gynaecology, ear, nose and throat surgery, neurosurgery, anaesthesiology, and orthopaedics, among others.

IRCAD France was founded by the French surgeon Professor Jacques Marescaux in 1994. Marescaux, speaking at the launch in Rwanda, said the Africa centre will be training thousands of medical professionals from, not only Rwanda, but also across the continent.

Collaboration with college of medicine

Professor Abraham Mitike, the head of the University of Rwanda’s college of medicine and health sciences, said it was already actively exploring ways to facilitate trainees’ access to the centre’s facilities, and experts from IRCAD will be encouraged to teach at the college, thereby also enriching the educational experience for students.

“The school of medicine and health sciences offers, not only undergraduate programmes but also several postgraduate programmes in clinical medicine, and IRCAD Africa can play a pivotal role in enhancing these programmes, especially for postgraduate students,” he said in an interview with University World News.

“The hands-on skills and training that will be provided [through training from the centre] will be invaluable to our fellow students doing masters in minimally invasive surgery. It will elevate their skills and make them more relevant in the health system, not only in Rwanda, but also in the global scene,” he noted.

Medical students, the official said, could gain more from the centre, being research-based, while students and staff could access different state-of-the-art facilities and other opportunities, positioning them to become future researchers in the medical field.

About 240 medical students, particularly those enrolled in masters programmes, can directly or indirectly benefit from the IRCAD programme.

Local and international expertise

IRCAD Africa plans to train 500-1,000 surgeons each year in minimally invasive surgery, which aims to minimise pain and trauma on patients, allowing for shorter periods spent in hospital, a lower risk of bleeding and infection and a speedy recovery, according to a media release.

The centre has already presented a first education session recently with about 60 participants and surgeons from 20 countries, bringing together top surgical experts, thought leaders, and innovators from around the world.

An investment of about US$32 million was made to equip the IRCAD Africa centre with cutting-edge simulation technology, including virtual reality and augmented reality platforms, which allow surgeons to practise and refine their skills in a safe and controlled environment.

It also houses a fully equipped operating wet lab, complete with advanced surgical equipment, enabling hands-on training in real surgical scenarios.