The BACO 2020 executive team, working with the American Academy of Otolaryngology - Head and Neck Surgery (AAOHNS), has adopted a truly international approach to next year’s convention. We spoke with the University of Cape Town’s Professor Johan Fagan in anticipation of his appearance as a BACO 2020 distinguished professor, about the power of conferences in creating networks and sharing surgical information between countries.
Prof Fagan spoke to us about the challenges ENT surgeons encounter in South Africa, especially those imposed by limited resources. “These place us in difficult situations,” he said, “where you have to make decisions about who to prioritise for certain procedures. We don’t have the luxury you have in the UK of being able to offer the full spectrum of care to all of our patients.”
Such difficulties mean surgeons must learn to recognise potential opportunities when they arise. He points to the work undertaken by registrars and fellows from other African countries on his training programme, who are instrumental in educating their South African colleagues about the challenges faced throughout the region.
The exchange of information across borders clearly plays a valuable role in overcoming similar restraints faced by practitioners in many places. This is a principle with which Prof Fagan is very familiar, having authored two award-winning open access textbooks - chapters from which have been downloaded more than two-million times in countries around the world.
He was also a founder of the African Head and Neck Society (AfHNS), bringing together the first 10 fully trained head and neck surgeons in sub-Saharan Africa.
How has this affected practice in the region, and what lessons might the experience hold for surgeons elsewhere?
“Establishing this organisation has really pulled [these surgeons] together. We work around common goals and network with each other. Also, it has become a contact for organisations such as ENT UK and BAHNO, enabling them to provide assistance in developing head and neck services,” said Prof Fagan.
If facilitating international collaboration between colleagues in the developed and the developing worlds can be part of the solution to these challenges, what role can conferences play in the process?
Prof Fagan reiterated how fortunate we are to have access to international conferences that enable clinicians from different parts of the world and different backgrounds to come together and share their experiences.
Could there be a way to optimise this exchange of information?
“The one feature often lacking at these conferences is better representation by those on the receiving end,” he states. “That is, delegates from developing countries. Generally, these conferences are dominated by those who are reaching out, but one doesn’t often hear the perspective from the other side”.
Registration for BACO 2020 opens 13 September 2019. Abstract submissions for instructional sessions, oral and poster presentations, and fellowship applications are now open. Details can be found at www.baco2020.org.