Surgical Team Offers Service, Supplies, Education to Ugandan Hospital

Published July 28, 2008

T Clayton

T. Clayton, a surgical technician at Duke University Hospital, carefully packs a case of aneurysm clips for the long journey to Kampala, Uganda. While in Kampala, Clayton will assist in one of the four operating rooms Duke surgeons will set up at Mulago Hospital to treat patients and teach Ugandan surgeons new techniques.

For a few hours on July 23, the 3rd floor of the Duke Children’s Hospital and Health Clinic looked more like an airline terminal than a pediatric clinic. More than a dozen nurses, scrub techs, doctors, and anesthesiologists filled suitcases with OR equipment – ranging from disposable scrubs to aneurysm clips – all destined to Africa.

This shipment is only a small subset of the material that to the team will take to Mulago Hospital in Kampala, Uganda.  A 40 foot container with ventilators, OR beds, and a 40 bed cardiac monitoring unit and 20 pallets of supplies has already been flown to Kampala, courtesy of Operation Blessing. All told, the team has sent nearly $2 million in OR equipment to the hospital. Much of the equipment is new, donated by companies. Some of it is usable surplus from Duke University Health System, provided by the Duke Global Health PLUS program.

The team, headed up by Dr. Michael Haglund, a Duke neurosurgeon, left Thursday, July 24, 2008 to spend a week in Kampala offering free surgical care to needy patients. In many ways, the trip will be similar to last year’s trip, when a 22-member team spent 12 days installing equipment and performing surgeries. But this year the team plans to create a longer-lasting benefit by focusing as much on educating Ugandan healthcare workers as they do on treating patients. 

On July 26, the team will offer a full day Continuing Medical Education course, composed of parallel classes for surgeons, anesthesiologists, critical care nurses, and healthcare workers involved in treating orthopedic trauma. Dr. William Richardson, on orthopedic surgeon, also plans to initiate a training program in spinal surgery.

July 28 through 31, the team will open four operating rooms. Ugandan neurosurgeons will serve as primary surgeons while the Duke surgeons and OR team assist. This will allow Ugandan surgeons to experience differing approaches. The four operating rooms will operate on different types of cases:

  • Dr. Zomorodi will be teaching skull base techniques;
  • Dr. Haglund will assist in cranial and cervical/lumbar spine cases;
  • Dr. Richardson will tackle complex spine cases;
  • Dr. Piquer, a surgeon from Spain, will join Stephen Parker, a Global Health Resident from Duke, to teach third ventriculostomy surgical techniques. 

The 53- member team contains a cross section of healthcare providers; surgeons, orthopedic residents, operating room nurses and scrub technicians, anesthesiologists, a medical student from Wake Forest, and two engineering students from Duke’s Engineering World Health program.

Regardless of their backgrounds or diverse schedule, the team is united in an effort to aid individual patients immediately, and strengthen the health care infrastructure at Mulago Hospital for the future.