Pediatric subspecialists, those with the highest of levels of specialized training and expertise, comprise an extremely small pool of individuals worldwide. Medical training programs, like the residency and fellowship programs at Children’s, as well as faculty training endeavors overseas, play a crucial role in enhancing children’s health around the world.
Here are just a few examples of the hospital’s many far-reaching efforts in the realm of training:
Residents Expand Partnership with Tanzanian Hospital
In 2006, Children’s residents, led by then chief resident Sabrina Wagner, MD, established a partnership with Bugando Medical Centre in Tanzania, with guidance from Lina Abujamra, MD, and Sharon Unti, MD. Since then, dozens of residents have traveled to Mwanza, Tanzania to complete an optional training rotation in international health. There, the physicians share best practices and help establish systems to improve patient care despite limited resources.
The partnership recently expanded to Tanzanian physicians also traveling to Chicago to observe practices at Children’s. “This experience has given us an entirely different perspective about patient care,” says Akwila Temu, MD. “What we’ve seen and learned will definitely make us better doctors in the future,” says Neema Kayange, MD. Knowledge wasn’t the only exchange: During their month-long visit this spring, Drs. Temu and Kayange even stayed in the Chicago homes of the Children’s residents who were in Tanzania at the same time.
Fellows Bring Specialty Care Back to Their Native Countries
Fellowships offer specialized training and research opportunities to foster the next generation of pediatric subspecialists, such as pediatric cardiologists, neonatologists or oncologists. While every effort is made to recruit these highly trained specialists to remain at Children’s following their fellowships, some ultimately choose to relocate to serve children in other parts of their world.
Following a neuro-oncology fellowship, Maria Echevarria, MD, returned to her native Puerto Rico in 2007 as the first and only pediatric neuro-oncologist on the island. “As much as I would have loved to stay at Children’s, I recognized I could bring back something of great importance to children with brain tumors in Puerto Rico,” says Dr. Echevarria, pictured here with her mentor, Stewart Goldman, MD, director of oncolgy at Children’s and the Gus Foundation Chair in Neuro-oncology.
Niramol Tantemsapya, MD, is currently working with Riccardo Superina, MD, co-director of the Siragusa Transplantation Center. She plans to return to her native Thailand next year to establish a leading pediatric organ transplantation program in Bangkok. While living donor liver transplants (in which a portion of a parent’s liver is surgically removed and donated to a child), are routinely performed at Children’s , this is not the case in Thailand where thousands of children each year die while awaiting a full liver donation (from a deceased donor). Dr. Tantemsapya also plans to perform pediatric small bowel transplants, which have never been done in Thailand.
“I’ve been fortunate to have found a wonderful mentor in Dr. Superina, who is both a pediatric surgeon and a transplant surgeon, so there’s something new to learn every day,” she says. “In addition to surgical skills, I’ve also learned a great deal about peri-operative care, modern radiology imaging and intervention techniques, multi-disciplinary coordination of care, research projects and pediatric liver histology — all of which will help me enhance care for children in my homeland.”
Emergency Medicine Specialists Help Save Children’s Lives Abroad
When a kindergartener in Shanghai, China died at school from choking on a piece of food, it illuminated the need to better train those likely to be first responders to an emergency involving a child. Through the American Academy of Pediatrics, Susan Fuchs, MD, head of the Emergency Medical Services team at Children’s, spent a week training school and health practitioners in the city of Shanghai, where there are more than a million elementary school-aged children. Since then, nearly 400,000 people in China have completed the pediatric emergency response curriculum, receiving training from those Dr. Fuchs trained.“The hands-on format of the course was unlike anything they had seen before; they loved it,” she says. Dr. Fuchs has conducted similar trainings in Mexico, American Samoa and Russia.
Walter Eppich, MD, MEd, is quickly rising as an international expert in healthcare simulation education and innovation. He regularly teaches courses abroad and participates in international symposia designed to promote international collaboration and the sharing of best educational practices — all in an effort to improve patient care and safety. Together with Mark Adler, MD, and other colleagues in the Division of Emergency Medicine, Dr. Eppich is also working to standardize healthcare simulation education at Children’s, which has one of the few state-of-the art medical simulation labs within a children’s hospital in the U.S. He will co-chair the 2010 International Meeting for the Society for Simulation in Healthcare.
This article first appeared in the Fall 2009 issue of Heroes magazine. For a dose of inspiration sent right to your inbox, sign up to receive our Heroes Update. Or read important facts about us.