A team of doctors from South Wales has travelled to a conference in Senegal to present ideas about novel ways of delivering healthcare education in Africa and Asia.
Organised by Merck Foundation, the charitable arm of the global pharmaceutical company, Merck, the event in Dakar brought together more than 500 healthcare professionals from 58 countries. Attendees included the First Ladies from 11 African states, under the patronage of the President of Senegal, Macky Sall.
The Welsh contingent, led by Consultant Physician Professor Steve Davies, was invited to speak following the successful completion by 20 African doctors of the online Postgraduate Diploma and Master’s courses run by Learna Ltd – the company based at Cardiff Medicentre and founded by Professor Davies in 2010 – and the University of South Wales. The award-winning Diploma-MSc programmes offer flexible online learning and globally recognised qualifications in medical areas including diabetes, cardiovascular medicine and acute medicine. To date, more than 2,000 students from over 100 countries have achieved these higher-level qualifications while maintaining their clinical practice.
Professor Davies said:
“Medical practitioners all over the world face many and varied challenges. The greatest of these is budget. But another very real challenge for doctors is in finding time to build on their knowledge and to enhance their professional development – the pressures of healthcare do not easily allow clinicians time off for study. That is the beauty of online learning; something that can be done at each individual’s own pace, wherever they are in the world, and without their region losing out on the precious medical resource they represent.”
That was a message that Professor Davies, together with Professor Atul Kalhan from Royal Glamorgan Hospital and Dr Kofi Obuobie from Royal Gwent Hospital, conveyed to delegates in Dakar.
Professor Davies said:
‘It was a great privilege to speak at this event and meet the African doctors who are so thirsty for knowledge and so committed to improving healthcare in their countries, despite the geographical and financial constraints. The availability of top-class medical education in Africa is very limited, and many doctors earn less than $20,000 a year, so studying elsewhere is not often a viable option. However, through the support of the Merck Foundation, these clinicians have been able to study with a global healthcare community, develop expertise, and be influential in improving patient care in their region. The Merck Foundation has shown itself to be ahead of the curve in facilitating this online learning, and should be recognised for its efforts.”
As Africa embraces these new methods of delivering healthcare education, increasing numbers of doctors from all across the continent look set to benefit from the Diploma-MSc programme.
The First Lady of Ghana, Mrs Rebecca Akufo-Addo announced at the conference that the Merck Foundation has supported five Ghanaian doctors through the diploma course, adding,
“We are planning to partner with Merck Foundation to expand this programme to more doctors.”
Dr Rasha Kelej, CEO of the Merck Foundation, said:
“Merck Foundation is working closely with African governments and academia to build healthcare capacity and improve access to quality healthcare in underserved communities. We are planning to help hundreds of doctors to improve their skills through studying on these online courses with the aim to establish a platform of future health experts for better patient care, which is our mission.’