Expanding rehabilitation residency training in Nepal

August 15, 2022 | Author: Royal College Staff

With a population comparable to Canada’s, Nepal has just one physician qualified as a Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation (PMR) specialist. With International Development, Aid and Collaboration (IDAC) funding, Claire Weeks, MD, FRCPC, and Peter Wing, MBChB, FRCSC, are working closely with two Nepal-based physicians, Dr. Raju Dhakal and Dr. Christine Groves, to build a residency training program in Nepal that will set at least two residents on the path to become PMR specialists.

A program with roots in British Columbia

Both in Vancouver, Dr. Weeks, a retired PMR specialist, and Dr. Wing, a retired spine surgeon, have been supporting Nepali specialists’ training since 2009 and, through their UBC-based program, the Nepalese Spinal Cord Injury Collaboration (SpiNepal), have paid for the training of one neurosurgeon/spine surgeon and one PMR specialist. The latter, Dr. Dhakal, is now the medical director of the Spinal Injury Rehabilitation Centre in Kathmandu, the only facility of its kind in Nepal.

“Unfortunately, Dr. Dhakal’s PMR training took place outside Nepal because there is no such training available within the country,” says Dr. Weeks. “For rehab training to be most effective, it needs to be done in Nepal, by Nepalis, for Nepalis who have conditions amenable to rehabilitation. This IDAC grant is the perfect vehicle for building a training program in the country.”

Members and supporters of SpiNepal. Back row: Surgeon Dr. Prakash Paudel between SpiNepal supporters David Hess and Darby Honeyman. Front row, from left: Sheela Gyanwali (wife of Dr. Raju Dhakal), Dr. Claire Weeks, Dr. Peter Wing and Dr. Raju Dhakal (submitted photo).

Out of country training is generic

Dr. Weeks explained that rehab training for Nepal should ideally reflect the disease profile seen in that country, rather than a generic profile. “A large number of people in Nepal suffer from conditions that could benefit greatly from rehab,” adds Dr. Wing. “This new training program presents an opportunity to promote the importance of building local capacity in the specialty.”

Until recently, PMR patient care was not funded in Nepal, but that is changing. In 2020, Nepal’s Ministry of Health and Population, working with the World Health Organization, noted that Nepal was underserviced in the specialty. While even now only a small amount of funding has been allocated to develop PMR capacity in Nepal, the country’s National Board of Medical Specialties has acknowledged that a PMR training program would be a significant asset.

Dr. Claire Weeks (far right) in Kathmandu with (from left) Hari Adhikari, Spinal Injury Rehabilitation Centre (SIRC) administrative director, Dr. Raju Dhakal, SIRC medical director, and Dr. Christine Groves, physiatrist (submitted photo).

A multiplier effect

Drs. Weeks and Wing said that a Nepal-based, Nepal-focused PMR training program will have a huge multiplier effect in the country. “We hope that this new training program will be the start of a network of specialty rehabilitation across the country,” says Dr. Wing. The team envisions a future where each of Nepal’s seven provinces has at least one inpatient/outpatient centre with interdisciplinary rehab and at least one PMR specialist onsite, “…providing the best possible outcomes for patients who have sustained spinal cord injury, stroke, brain injury, and the many others who will benefit from tailored, focussed rehabilitation services,” says Dr. Weeks.

Volunteer opportunity

Dr. Weeks and Dr. Wing would like to hear from Royal College Fellows interested in volunteering with their project. In particular, the team could use pedagogical support as they develop curriculum and other elements for the PMR residency training program.

If you are interested in volunteering, please email idac@royalcollege.ca (subject: Dr. Weeks and Dr. Wing’s project in Nepal) with some details about yourself. Your email will be passed on to the project lead.


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