Medical milestone in Samoa

By Mathias Hukert ,

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FIRST TIME FOR SAMOA: Tutors, Participants and Organizers of the surgery workshop held at Apia’s T.T.M Hospital.

FIRST TIME FOR SAMOA: Tutors, Participants and Organizers of the surgery workshop held at Apia’s T.T.M Hospital.

Non-profit international society, Interplast, has completed a surgery milestone at Samoa’s Tupua Tamasese Meaole Hospital. It comes in the form of a training this week which is the first of its kind in Samoa.

“The idea here was to take two or three days to teach a number of local and regional surgeons the basics of good flaps and flap coverage,” said Dr. Ben Norris, a plastic surgeon from Australia who served as one of the training's tutors.

Prof Mark Gittos, Dr Ben Norris, Dr Tuuau Shaun Mauiliu, John Brown, Kalmam’Lellan, and Thomas Loporto.

Prof Mark Gittos, Dr Ben Norris, Dr Tuuau Shaun Mauiliu, John Brown, Kalmam’Lellan, and Thomas Loporto.

“It was important for us to not only cover the theoretical part of surgery, which is done by providing lectures, but also to give the workshop’s participants the chance to actually apply what they have learnt so far in the operating theatre.”

According to Dr. Norris, the workshop has been a valuable experience for everybody involved. 

“We had 15 participants predominantly coming from the surrounding Pacific Island nations including surgeons from Tonga, Fiji, the Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, and Samoa and I am sure all of them have profited from their time here.”

As Dr. Norris explained, the workshop was organized to provide “the transferring of skills from surgeons who are quite familiar with the procedure to surgeons who are not because they simply do not have the ability yet at their workplace.” 

He admitted that “the quality of the work that is done by the visiting surgeons in their own countries with much less than we’re used to in Australia or New Zealand is simply amazing.”

But with their attendance in the context of the workshop, the visiting surgeons were able to gain more knowledge that certainly will improve the outcomes of their work in their home countries.

Prof Mark Gittos, Dr Ben Norris, Dr Tuuau Shaun Mauiliu, John Brown, Kalmam’Lellan, and Thomas Loporto.
Prof Mark Gittos, Dr Ben Norris, Dr Tuuau Shaun Mauiliu, John Brown, Kalmam’Lellan, and Thomas Loporto.

One of the participants from Samoa was Dr. Tuuau Shaun Mauiliu. 

For the orthopedic surgeon who works at T.T.M hospital, the workshop was an absolutely worthwhile experience. 

“Around 80 per cent of our cases here in orthopedics are trauma cases,” he said. “Having Interplast come over and showing us different ways of reconstruction, which is one of the main aims of our work, helps us a lot. Because if you’re able to restore form and function of a patient’s body part, then this is a life changing experience for the patient.”

For Dr. Mauiliu, the workshop also offered a positive effect on the community spirit concerning surgery in the Pacific area. 

“We are accustomed to our setting here and we are familiar with the way we deal with certain cases. Just the fact to come together as group where everybody is invited to come up with a part of the solution for a problem is a big improvement.”

According to Thomas Loporto, Interplast’s Program Coordinator from New Zealand, who, together with local coordinator Alfredo Adams put together the workshop’s programme, a lot of hard work had to be done to finally realize a workshop of this kind in Samoa. 

“Originally the programme was designed over a year ago. We had submitted an application through a global Rotary to secure grants for the event and luckily this could be done with the help of the Rotary club of Apia here as well as from Rotary Club Ryde in Sydney, Australia.”

For Mr. Loporto, Samoa seemed to be a perfect place to assemble different surgeons from the Pacific.  

“We thought of Apia as the location for our workshop because from here we could give other surgeons from Pacific islands the opportunity to come and see the facility here, which is more than able to cope with this sort of conference”.

As for future plans regarding a possible renewal of the workshop, Dr. Norris already has some plans in mind. 

“We might try to do a similar kind of workshop over the course of the next year that should be distributed among the other nations, so the ultimate plan would be to do the next one maybe in Fiji or perhaps the Solomon Islands but this of course depends on the way of funding.”

© Samoa Observer 2016

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