Improving faculty development for African oncologists
This project is a 2020 recipient of grant funding from the Royal College’s new International Development, Aid and Collaboration (IDAC) program. This grant supports projects that improve health profession education and local capacity in low- and middle-income countries.
Seventy per cent of the world’s cancer deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries, while only five per cent of the world’s resources to fight cancer are spent there. In the case of Africa, the rising burden of disease coupled with a shortage of oncologists puts oncology faculty at high risk for burnout, and cancer patients at high risk for poor health outcomes.
“There is a chronic shortage of oncologists in Africa and most who practise there are trained elsewhere,” said Nazik Hammad, MD, FRCPC, an oncologist in the Department of Oncology at Queen’s University. “There is a need to train oncologists locally who can deliver high-quality and cost-effective oncological care.”
Establishing a community of practice
Currently, the few oncologists who teach postgraduate medical training programs in Africa have limited access to faculty development in their institutions. A partnership between Queen’s University and the African Organisation for Research and Training in Cancer (AORTIC) seeks to develop and run a faculty development course for African oncologists that will form the foundation of an ongoing community of practice.
Dr. Hammad, Scott Berry, MD, FRCPC, and their project team are launching a three-year program, funded in part by the Royal College’s IDAC program, that will
- assess the faculty development needs of oncologists in Africa;
- identify content and develop online modules, and webinars for learning;
- develop workshops and face-to-face learning events for further networking; and
- evaluate the online modules and webinars to ensure they are meeting the learning needs of African oncologists.
“This initiative will create a scientific learning community network focused on achieving common and sustainable goals,” said Dr. Hammad. She explained that the project is designed to enable deep understanding of the system that produces the challenges oncology faculty face, while continually articulating a theory of improvement. The project will follow the rigour of improvement science, and will carefully coordinate activities to test ideas and how they are applied in practice.
The importance of bidirectional learning
Dr. Hammad stressed the importance of bidirectional learning in working with faculty from Africa. “The countries we are working with have a lot to teach us with respect to creativity and resilience,” she said. “In low-resource settings, oncologists need extraordinary negotiation skills, and are highly involved in advocacy and patient groups. Engaging with them will teach us lessons that can help improve our health system in Canada.”
Due to COVID-19 and travel restrictions, a number of project activities originally planned for earlier this year have been delayed. Some activities have since restarted, while others are waiting for an appropriate and safe time to resume.