International Association of Student Surgical Societies 2015
Going from strength to strength, the UNAM Student Surgery Society (USSS) has once again proved itself worthy of being one of the best-run student societies, doing its title as 2014’s most active student society across the 13 University of Namibia campuses proud.
With the support of Erongomed, on 16 July 2015, 21 surgically inclined students from the USSS at the University Of Namibia School Of Medicine embarked on a 10 day tour to Brisbane, Australia, representing our school as well as Namibia at the International Association of Student Surgical Societies’ (IASSS) Surgery Symposium.
Since its humble beginnings in 2013, the USSS has become a sought after society, hosting numerous events each year, all centred on surgery, skills development and extension of student knowledge within this wonderful field of medicine. Furthermore, the USSS was a founding member of the IASSS, thus enabling students to attend the second IASSS Symposium.
The theme of the Symposium being Inspiration, Innovation, Action, students were given the chance to participate and acquire new surgical skills.
These included the following: Arthroscopy, Bone Plating, Burr Holes, Cyst Removal, Heart Valve Replacement, Laparoscopic Skills, Max Facs and 3D Printing, Skin Flaps, Surgical Hand Ties and Intraosseous Needle Insertion and Suturing and Da Vinci Robot Simulations.
Academic Talks included: Academic Surgery (Dr John North), How to Set Up a Humanitarian Mission (Dr Rob Cardwell), Leadership in Surgery and Mentoring in Surgery.
Once again Namibia did our name proud when one of our third year students (Irene Tietz) competed against students from all continents in the Top Knife competition and was amongst the Top 10.
The mornings consisted of inspiring lectures by some world-renowned surgeon in their respective fields.
The Symposium kicked off with Prof. Fiona Wood who is the head of the Royal Perth Hospital Burns Unit and is one of Australia’s most innovative and respected surgeons. She patented a revolutionary skin grafting technique – “Spray-on-Skin”. She reminded delegates that it is a privilege to get up in the morning and to enjoy what you do, building tomorrow with positive energy, and to be selfless in the sharing of your experiences and knowledge.
Dr Bill Glasson talked about rural surgery in the Western parts of Australia and how services should be brought to the people, instead of bringing the people to the services.
Rear Admiral Robyn Walker spoke on Mental Health and the Australian Defence Force.
Prof. Deborah Bailey is the President of the Australian and New Zealand College of Paediatric Surgeons and Immediate Past Chair of the Board of Paediatric Surgery RACS and spoke about “How the Small Leads Innovation in Surgery”.
Dr Sean Burmeister is a UCT graduate and currently a consultant surgeon at Groote Schuur and Red Cross Hospital in Cape Town, South Africa. With his special interest in hepatobiliary and pancreatic surgery, we received practical experience based advice and data on minimally invasive therapies for complicated severe acute pancreatitis, which we regularly encounter in the Katutura State Hospital, as well as this being a Southern African take which is applicable for our setting.
Assoc. Prof. Ash Hanafy’s tongue-in-the-cheek title was “The Business of Making Babies”, which sparked great interest amongst students as he was a major role player and took part in the world’s first uterus transplant in 2012, with this medical breakthrough sparked by one of his own patients – a 26 year old woman who wanted a transplant post hysterectomy due to cervical cancer.
Dr Shafi Ahmed pioneered the use of Google Glass during a surgical procedure in 2014 and some students were given the chance to witness the future of surgical training hands-on with Dr Ahmed.
These are but a few glimpses of the great teachers and surgeons we had the extreme privilege of listening to during the Symposium. They have greatly changed and influenced the way in which we perceive surgery, technology and future innovation in medicine.
Furthermore, there were social events in the evenings during which we interaceted with fellow medical students from all years and universities, enabling us to see what is happening around the world in medical training, allowing us to build valuable connections, making friends from all continents and leaving us with an enlarged perspective of the world we live in. Evening activities included a scrub run in our IASSS scrubs across Brisbane, A Trivia Night and the IASSS Gala Ball.
This was once again a highlight for the USSS and we have gained valuable knowledge and skills which will help us pave the way forward in Namibia. As prospective hosts of the 2016 IASSS Symposium, we are tremendously excited about what this would entail for UNAM School of Medicine students, USSS members and Namibia as a whole, as we would be opening our doors to the international surgical community.
We now appreciate the privilege and opportunities we have as Namibian medical students and the vast majority of responsibility we are blessed with here in Africa.
Once again I would like to extend a heartfelt vote of thanks to Erongomed. Without their support, we would not have been able to have this life changing experience and with your collaboration, we look forward to a prosperous and even more exciting 2016. May this be the start of a long and innovative journey for Erongomed and the USSS.
I would like to close my report on the 2015 IASSS Symposium with the inspiring words of Prof. Fiona Wood: “The power of dreaming will give you the innovation of tomorrow… so that people survive and survive because you have become better. The quality of the outcome must be worth the pain of intervention.”
May all of us keep this near our hearts as we continue to strive towards becoming Namibia’s next generation of Surgeons.
Monique van Alphen
SRC Information and Publicity
USSS (UNAM Student Surgery Society)
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