Faith and Health, Sponsor

CURE International: Investing in Surgical Training to Reach More Children in Need

May 10, 2021

by Guest Contributor

by Joel Witwer, Lead Storyteller, CURE International, Ethiopia

You know that story in the Bible where the boss is going on a long business trip, and he gives three of his employees some cash to see what they can do with it while he’s gone. The first one freaks out and stuffs the cash under his mattress just to keep it safe until his boss gets back. The second one finds an interesting business venture and invests his boss’ cash eventually doubling it. And the third employee sits down, does some research on intelligent investing, and ends up earning a 10x increase on the boss’ money. Now, none of the employees lost any of the boss’ money, but he had some really harsh words for the mattress stuffer and some really high praise for the investors.

God has given us all gifts, but these gifts aren’t really for us. They’re God-given so we can go out into the world, invest in other people, and multiply them for the good of humankind and the glory of God. At CURE, one of the ways we invest our gifts is through extensive training programs throughout our hospital network. Today, five billion people do not have access to safe, affordable surgical or anesthesia care and this gap is greatest in LMIC where nine out of ten people cannot access basic surgical care. We estimate that 50 million children live with surgically treatable conditions in the countries where CURE has a presence and many wait on long waiting lists before surgery can be scheduled. This results in treatable disabilities becoming permanent debilitating conditions.

Through partnerships with local and national institutions, CURE trains health care professionals to help elevate national health systems’ capacity to treat children with disabilities; in turn, these relationships help increase CURE’s treatment and training capacity. Our hospitals host residencies and training programs for local physicians, anesthesiologists, nurses, clinical officers, medical students, and biomedical technicians.

As an example, at any given time at CURE Ethiopia, we can have up to four doctors training inside our operating rooms – three residents from Ethiopian medical schools doing an orthopedics rotation with us and one surgical fellow doing a yearlong specialization in pediatric orthopedics. CURE’s commitment to training and partnerships is also seen through our training programs certified by the College of Surgeons of East, Central, and Southern Africa (COSECSA) and in collaboration with the Pan African Academy of Christian Surgeons (PAACS).

Additionally, Dr. Tim Nunn is heading up an effort to create a training course which will enable Ethiopian surgeons, physical therapists, and casting practitioners to treat what’s called delayed presenting clubfoot. Because our bones are a little bendy when we’re born, clubfoot can be treated, in a non-surgical manner, through progressive casting. But if clubfoot isn’t caught, or discovered before our bones firm up – as most are not in Ethiopia – multiple surgeries are needed.

Hundreds of children come to CURE Ethiopia each year for clubfoot surgery. It’s a straight-forward condition to treat, and with the right training, a team of casting techs, surgeons, and physical therapists could treat it at local hospitals all over Ethiopia. Considering that the waitlist at CURE Ethiopia alone is currently sitting at approximately 5,000 children, increasing the number of qualified and compassionate medical professionals is one of the best ways to get more children the care they desperately need in a timely manner!

That is the goal of CURE’s training programs, and the goal of the clubfoot treatment course Dr. Tim is developing in conjunction with Oxford University in the UK. CURE Ethiopia and Oxford University have been able to proliferate their excitement about the course to bring both Christian Blind Mission (CBM) and the UK’s Tropical Health and Education Trust (THET) on board to help fund the creation and propagation of this course.

Dr. Bekalu (left) operating on Dawit under the supervision of Dr. Teddy (right).

It’s through partnerships with organizations like CBM and THET, training programs like COSECSA and PAACS, and CURE’s regular residency and fellowships programs that enables a transfer of skills and knowledge to local surgeons and healthcare workers. CURE is enthusiastic to participate with CCIH’s 30 x 30 Health System Initiative to strengthen health systems. This includes collaborating with local partners and Ministries of Health, ultimately increasing and strengthening access to quality healthcare. Surgical care is a cross-cutting, cost-effective way to help strengthen health systems which in turn support local educational and developmental goals while helping to lift families from poverty.

We want to see a world where children with disabilities reach their full potential through God’s hope and healing. Surgical training leads to the treatment of more children like Dawit, not only changing his life but also investing in the education and specialization of fellows, like current CURE Ethiopia Pediatric Orthopedic Fellow Dr. Bekalu, and multiplied in every child encountered throughout their careers.

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