College saddles up for charity fundraiser to safeguard Malawian legacy

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Funds raised will be used to support both the delivery of medical training in Malawi and Malawian trainees gaining experience in the UK.

Takondwa Itaye-kamangira or ‘TK’ and Wone Banda, both trainee surgeons at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Blantyre in the Southern region of Malawi, are already spending time in Scotland, thanks to support from the College, as part of the UK Government’s ‘Medical Training Initiative’. TK has just arrived in Glasgow and Wone is close to finishing the training stints designed to equip them to return home to save lives in one of the World’s poorest nations. 

A number of senior clinicians from the College will set off on Saturday 3 September to cycle the 51 mile ‘5 Ferry Challenge’ around the Firth of Clyde to help meet a £50,000 fundraising target. The team will be led by Mr Mike McKirdy, college vice president (Surgical) and consultant general surgeon at the Royal Alexandria Hospital. The money raised will be used to support future placements and medical training in Malawi.

Mr McKirdy commented: "It’s common practice for surgeons to spend time in another country as part of their training. However, with only two plastic surgeons currently serving the needs of 16 million Malawians, it brings into sharp focus the value of helping clinicians such as TK and Wone to advance their careers. 

"Safe and effective access to primary and secondary care is needed in the developing world. More than five billion people in low and middle income countries do not have access to safe and affordable care. Sub Saharan Africa alone has 24% of the global burden of disease but only 3% of the health workforce. This is a global issue but we are focused on helping locally, by identifying needs and responding with targeted support. Delivering surgical skills and train the trainer courses in specific regions in Malawi will be important as will providing opportunities for Malawi-based trainees to gain experience in the UK.

"Our College has a long history of working in partnership with medical teams in Africa. There is a strong historical bond between Scotland and Malawi. It’s a two-way relationship. Working alongside TK and Wone allows us to pass on valuable expertise but we learn so much from them in return. The resilience and expertise of medical teams working in the most difficult situations are inspiring for their peers in Scotland. Our fundraising efforts will further strengthen this relationship."

TK, who will be studying general surgery with a specialism in breast disease commented: “My father first came to study at Strathclyde University in the 1980s. He always shared stories with us about life in Glasgow and when the opportunity came up I was determined to come over. Although our Hospital in Blantyre is city-based we experience people travelling many miles for treatment. With one general surgeon and four intensive care beds, we make life or death decisions on who to treat. The incidence of breast cancer is on the increase while awareness is low. Good education is the key for patients and surgeons. The opportunity to learn with my Scottish colleagues is invaluable and I know from direct experience that the money raised will be put to good use."

Wone, who is almost at the end of her training at the burns unit at Glasgow Royal Infirmary, commented: "I’ve been able to gain vital experience working in Glasgow. In Malawi there is a shortage of beds and a shortage of surgeons. My dream is to go home and expand plastic surgery units to other parts of the country. My time in Scotland is nearly at an end but it’s good to know that other students from my country will have the opportunity to train here in the future."



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