Start main page content

Wits Surgery Skills Centre trains specialists for Africa

- Wits University

In August 2017 the first ever temporal bone surgical skills workshop took place at Wits University.

The temporal bone is a thick, hard bone that forms part of the side and base of the skull. It protects nerves and structures in the ear that control hearing and balance.

This training was unique not only because of its specialist nature and that it was the first workshop of its kind on the African continent to be offered free of charge, but because it pioneered the establishment of the Wits Surgical Skills Training Centre to meet the critical need for surgical training across disciplines.

The Wits ENT department ran a surgical skills training workshop in 2017 that pioneered the establishment of the Wits Surgical Skills Centre

That first workshop, run by the University’s Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT) Department galvanized the momentum and fundraising necessary to produce a state-of-the-art training facility that is now available to the Wits community.

The Centre teaches surgery skills across disciplines including cardiothoracic; ENT; general surgery; gynaecology; maxillofacial; neurosurgery; ophthalmology; orthopaedics; plastic surgery; and urology. .

“The ENT department has been at the forefront of establishing the Wits Surgical Skills Training Centre and we hope to incorporate our existing temporal bone laboratory into the Centre,” says Dr Shivesh Maharaj, Academic Head of the ENT Department at Wits.

“Since pioneering the temporal bone surgical training in 2017, the Wits ENT department has run workshops annually. The workshops and courses assist in training ENT surgeons to improve their clinical and surgical skills.”

Maharaj in June 2020 published in the journal, European Archives of Otorhinolaryngology, on the topic of The nasal tent: an adjuvant for performing endoscopic endonasal surgery in the Covid era and beyond. Publication in high-impact journals is testament to the excellence of the training delivered in the Centre.

Dr Shivesh Maharaj heads the ENT department which delivered Wits' first temporal bone surgical skills workshop in 2017p

In South Africa there is a critical shortage of expert medical specialists including surgeons. The country loses medical experts annually due to the absence of highly specialized facilities, infrastructure, and the superior academic training programmes required for training these specialists.

“The loss of these skills results in the loss of services in the private and public sectors. Failure to train and retain these specialists in South Africa compromises future training and the delivery of public healthcare. The Centre works to replenish these skills and thus provide essential services in both sectors,” says Adjunct Professor Damon Bizos who leads the Centre and who is Head of Surgical Gastroenterology at Wits.

Bizos has a passion for skills training and was previously Head of the World Gastroenterology Organisation Train-the-Trainers Programme.

The Centre aims to provide interdisciplinary training for surgeons, nurses and other allied health practitioners at all levels. The basic and intermediate courses help inculcate basic surgical competence and skills development, whilst advanced courses ensure that experienced practitioners remain at the forefront of advances in the field. It offers access to in-house training as well as industry-sponsored surgical training courses and symposia. Train-the-trainer programmes and research into skills training are integral to the Centre.

The R10-million state-of-art laboratory boasts a large wet lab with eight stations, a lecture room for 35 participants, lead-lined walls to accommodate imaging, availability of laparoscopic towers and endoscopy for upper endoscopy and colonoscopy, full audiovisual and video-conferencing facilities, and access to cadavers to enable surgical and anatomical training on an actual body – considered the gold standard of surgical training. A fundraising initiative is underway to further enhance the surgical and IT infrastructure of this 21st Century facility.

The Wits community across disciplines is encouraged to take advantage of the quality training, sophisticated facilities and opportunities for networking and collaboration that the Centre presents.

About the Faculty of Health Sciences at Wits University

The  future  of  healthcare  in  South  Africa  is  dependent  on  the  ability  of  academic institutions  to  provide  quality  training  for doctors  at  both the  graduate  and at the specialist  and  sub-specialist  levels in sufficient  numbers  to  meet  the needs  of  the nation. Wits  University’s  Faculty  of Health  Sciences makes  a significant  contribution  and impact  to the provision of high  quality and  affordable  healthcare  in  South Africa  and  across  the  continent.  

Through the public health system and the Wits Donald Gordon Medical Centre (WDGMC), the Faculty trains more doctors, surgeons, specialists and sub-specialists than any other university in southern Africa. The  Wits  Faculty  of  Health  Sciences  is  a  community  of exceptional  teachers, innovative  researchers,  clinicians  and  students,  striving  to  prepare  tomorrow’s leaders.  

The 2019 Shanghai Academic Ranking of World Universities placed the Faculty 70th in public health and 68th in clinical medicine in the world. The 2019 Times Higher Education World Ranking placed Wits 83rd in the clinical, preclinical and health subjects.These rankings are testament to the global impact of the Faculty’s exceptional academics and researchers. This is a testament to the global impact of our exceptional academics and researchers.