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Johns Hopkins Hospital Physicians Help Improve Operative Care in Africa

The magnitude of health concerns in Africa have left many operating rooms and intensive care units very neglected. These areas can and often do become areas to be feared because of the volume of preventable death and disability which takes place. Johns Hopkins physicians have teamed up with the Society of Critical Care Medicine to assist a continent wide African led effort to improve operative and critical care medicine in Africa.

Baltimore, MD (PRWEB) September 15, 2009 -- The recent tragic death of Michael Jackson has illustrated publicly the dramatic effects of anesthesia medicines in the hands of individuals who lack training and experience in their utilization. In fact, no American would expect to undergo surgery without a skilled anesthesiologist or nurse anesthetist keeping them asleep, pain free, and alive during the experience.

However, surgical and anesthetic care in Africa are two areas within medicine that are largely ignored by the big players in African healthcare. Some entire countries cope without anesthesia physicians and with only a small contingent of nurse anesthetists who have no continuing medical education. More fortunate countries in Africa must manage with just one anesthesiologist per million population. In places like this, surgeons have no choice but to simply appoint the most capable untrained person available to "stand-in" as a surgeon-directed provider of anesthesia. The consequences are often so tragic that the surgery itself can be much more dangerous than the condition that it is meant to correct. Each year throughout Africa's 54 countries, millions of patients are anesthetized with inadequate drugs and equipment and by untrained personnel. This healthcare disparity results in an undocumented number of deaths and disabilities.

However, this September, The Kenya Society of Anesthesiologists is taking the lead toward solving the problem. The society will host the 4th All Africa Anaesthesia Congress in Nairobi, Kenya. The All Africa Anaesthesia Congress takes place only once every four years, rotating to a different location each time. This year it is organized through the collaboration and assistance of partners from the Johns Hopkins Hospital Anesthesiology & Critical Care Medicine Department (JHH ACCM) and the Society of Critical Care Medicine (SCCM). Physician partners from the University of Pittsburg Medical Center; The University of Virginia Health Center; The University of California, San Francisco; and Wake Forest University are joining the JHH ACCM/SCCM education team that will travel to Nairobi. The non-profit Doctors for United Medical Missions (DrUMM) is assisting with logistics.

Furthermore, the Johns Hopkins Center for Clinical Global Health Education has facilitated telemedicine presentations for education team members who will not be able to travel to Kenya--these include medical superstars such as Dr. Benjamin Carson (Presidential Medal of Freedom) and renowned critical care physician Dr. Peter Pronovost (Time Magazine's 100 most influential people in the world, 2008).

Patients requiring anesthesia and surgery in Africa desire and deserve the same opportunity for survival that patients in other parts of the world experience. Often it is not the expensive machines and fancy medicines that have the most impact in patient survival but rather the simple interventions such as hand washing, cleanliness, and a methodical approach which have the greatest impact in decreasing preventable death in African operating rooms. It is noteworthy that the Society of Critical Care Medicine has taken a leadership role in bringing its wealth of knowledge regarding the basic fundamentals of life-saving medical practice to the anesthesiologists and nurse anesthetists who practice throughout Africa.

Through collaborative efforts with physicians from the SCCM and other academic medical institutions JHH ACCM is determined to enhance the efforts of the Kenyan hosts of the 4th All African Anaesthesia Congress and thus positively impact the care of operative patients throughout Africa. The ongoing reward of these efforts will be improved safety and a decrease in the number of preventable, surgery-related deaths.

About Johns Hopkins Anesthesiology & Critical Care (JHH ACCM):
The JHH ACCM is dedicated to quality clinical care, innovative research, and inspirational training opportunities in anesthesia, critical care medicine, and other aspects of perioperative medicine.

John Ulatowski, MD, PhD, MBA


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