Launched in April 2016, the new MPhil degree in Minimal Access Gynaecological Surgery (MAGS) is in full swing. And, according to programme coordinator Dr Viju Thomas, the first fellow is making great progress.
This innovative programme is offered by the Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at Stellenbosch University’s Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences (FMHS). “It’s the first of its kind in South Africa and, to the best of my knowledge, in Africa,” says Thomas.
Traditionally, gynaecologists are trained to perform open surgery using large incisions. But good clinical evidence shows that, for most procedures, keyhole surgery is as effective – and often preferable.
“Keyhole surgery (or minimal access surgery) uses very small incisions to perform surgery that previously needed large incisions,” Thomas explains. “The advantages to the patient are numerous and include a shorter recovery time, more aesthetically acceptable incisions, less blood loss and a shorter hospital stay.”
Learning to perform keyhole surgery can take a very long time. As a result, very few South African doctors have mastered the skill.
“Unfortunately traditional curricula only include basic endoscopic training,” Thomas explains. He and his team recognised this serious void in surgical training, and decided to offer a solution.
The new MPhil programme now enables gynaecologists with an interest in keyhole surgery to obtain formal training in a safe environment, under the mentorship of skilled endoscopic surgeons.
“It’s important that this type of surgery is taught to all gynaecologists performing minimal access surgery,” Thomas emphasises. “These skills should not be self-taught. Instead, they should be transferred to the gynaecologist in a structured and academically sound environment that also guarantees the patient’s safety.”
The full-time MPhil programme, which stretches over a period of two years, follows a rigorous academic curriculum that focuses on the essential pillars of endoscopic surgery, followed by one-on-one preceptorship. The curriculum is centred around safety, advanced instrumentation, disease processes, evidence-based interventions and procedural training.
Due to the “one-on-one” training model, the FMHS is currently only able to accept one full-time trainee every two years. However, a four-year, part-time option is also available to young, enthusiastic gynaecological surgeons.
The first MPhil fellow, Dr Annelize Barnard, is a fully certified obstetrician and gynaecologist with a special interest in endoscopy. “She’s a dynamic and enthusiastic surgeon, and we believe she will do very well,” Thomas concludes.
Source: Stellenbosch University