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Celebrating the 20th anniversary of the College of Surgeons of East, Central and Southern Africa (COSECSA)

As the month of December began, my colleague Grace Le and I travelled from Oxford to Kampala to attend the

Grace Le (l) and Zineb Bentounsi (r) at COSECSA Grace Le (l) and Zineb Bentounsi (r) at COSECSA annual conference of the College of Surgeons of East, Central and Southern Africa (COSECSA). This year is special as it marks the 20th anniversary of the foundation of COSECSA. Prof Chris Lavy is one of the founding fellows of the College, and since 2012 NDORMS has had a Health Partnership Scheme link with the college, called COSECSA Oxford Orthopaedic Link (COOL). The conference started with a graduation ceremony: 112 surgeons from over 20 countries in sub-Saharan Africa became fellows of the college, which meant they had finished their surgical training and passed their final exams. There was a lot of joy and excitement in the air and the President of Uganda came in person to wish good luck to the new graduates and award their degrees.

As I witnessed the graduation ceremony, I felt hopeful for the future of the continent. These surgeons are an important addition to the surgical workforce in a continent where surgeons are lacking dramatically. For instance, compared to an average of 97 across Europe, in Uganda, there is only 1.52 surgeon per 100 000 population. Each one of these surgeons is a hero!

The following days, we attended several scientific presentations and Grace presented on behalf of the SURG-Africa team on the use of Participatory Action Research in designing a surgical intervention for district hospitals. SURG-Africa (a European Commission funded Horizon 2020 project) aims to help patients in rural areas in Tanzania, Malawi and Zambia access better surgical and anaesthesia care.

Grace Le with Dr Fortunate Mudede, winner of the NDORMS / COSECSA Oxford Orthopaedic Link travel grant to attend the Women in Surgery Africa annual meeting© Women in Surgery Africa (WiSA) Grace Le with Dr Fortunate Mudede, winner of the NDORMS / COSECSA Oxford Orthopaedic Link travel grant to attend the Women in Surgery Africa annual meeting


We were both invited to a lunch organised by Women in Surgery Africa which brings together female surgeons from the region and beyond. NDORMS sponsored Dr Fortunate Mudede, who is a young trainee in orthopaedic surgery, to travel from Zimbabwe to Uganda to attend the COSECSA conference and that lunch. After lunch, we listened to a keynote speech by Dr Barbara Bass, past president of the American College of Surgeons who gave the audience a lot of helpful advice about how to succeed in managing a surgical career and a healthy personal life. Both men and women attending found the speech useful.

On top of attending the conference, we also travelled to meet with our colleagues from SURG-Africa. After the conference, we had 2 full days of meeting to plan the year ahead. SURG-Africa is a project that brings together collaborators from six countries so although we are in close contact via email, we only meet all together once a year, usually at the COSECSA conference.

All in all, it was a very productive week for our team. As I joined the team recently, I was delighted to meet everybody and put faces on names. I also left Uganda inspired by the energy of the people I have met. Thank you Kampala.

SURG-Africa team with colleagues from Zambia, Tanzania, Malawi, UK, Ireland and the Netherlands.© Antonio Jaén Osuna SURG-Africa team with colleagues from Zambia, Tanzania, Malawi, UK, Ireland and the Netherlands.