International WFNS & Pakistan Society of Neurosurgeons
Mehak Ghaziani, Salman Sharif
The WHO declared the COVID-19 outbreak a pandemic on 11th March 2020. Time paused and the world closed down as the disease spread alarmingly rapidly globally, affecting all educational activities worldwide. Consequently, surgical training in sub-specializations like neurosurgery where training time is already limited and every minute counts, mastering the art of diagnosis, surgical procedures and patient management became immensely challenging. With the world going into lockdown, trainees and medical practitioners were redeployed to badly stricken COVID hotspots. From performing elective cases, the focus had to shift to only life-threatening emergencies with protocols, thereby providing fewer learning opportunities for young trainees. Performing surgeries with appropriate PPE protection became a tough but mandatory norm to adapt to in order to prevent the transmission of the virus and keep doctors and patients safe.
In these unprecedented times, the Pakistan Society of Neurosurgeons and Liaquat National Hospital played a major role in ensuring that the training of young neurosurgeons continued as effectively and regularly as possible. It started with educating the trainees of one center under the leadership of Prof. Salman Sharif. Similar sessions were then organized for young neurosurgeons around the world. Within the first week, trainees from Pakistan and other parts of Asia were attending these sessions. They were scheduled twice a week initially and later increased to as many as 5 sessions a week. The number of participants grew from 14 to 300 session by session, with a record 450 participants in a session by Prof. Atul Goel. The attendees included young neurosurgery trainees as well as experienced neurosurgeons.
These sessions were conducted by a world-renowned faculty and masters in their field, such as Mehmet Zileli (Turkey), Henry Schroeder (Germany), Azam Ahmed (UK), Hasan Syed (USA), Vladimir Benes (Czech Republic), Pablo Gonzalez (Spain), Gregory Trost (USA), Douglas Orr (USA), Tariq Khan (Pakistan), Nikolay Peev (UK), Chandrashekar Deopujari (India), Mahmood Qureshi (Kenya), Miguel Arraez (Spain), David Adelson (USA), Atul Goel (India), Paulo Pereira (Portugal), Saleem Abdul Rauf (USA), Khalid Mehmood (Pakistan) and Imad Kannan (KSA) to name a few. There were talks on all aspects of neurosurgery, including topics professionalism, leadership, mentorship, research, COVID in neurosurgery as well as various complex surgeries. A ‘Future of Neurosurgery’ session was conducted by female doctors in Neurosurgery. Under the moderation of Prof Saoud Bakhti (Algeria) prominent neurosurgeons such as Prof Najiya El Abbadi (Morocco), Dr Aneela Darbar (Pakistan), Abidha Shah (India), Sandi Lam (USA), Maya Babu (USA), Zarina Ali (USA) and Noorulain Iqbal (UK) spoke about the options for women in the field as well as endoscopic neurosurgical techniques. Other than international PSN / WFNS webinars, sessions were also conducted with the WFNS Spine Committee, WFNS Trauma Committee, WFNS Neuroendoscopy Committee, IFNE and WFNS Skull Base Committee. The neuroanatomy sessions conducted with the WFNS Neuroanatomy Committee were also an excellent source of knowledge for trainees and were a big success.
On 10th June 2020, an appreciation ceremony was organized to celebrate the success of these webinars. The session was opened by a welcome address given by PSN President, Prof Salman Sharif. The WFNS president’s address on ‘Update on Traumatic Brain Injury’ was moderated by Prof Tariq Khan, Co-Chair WFNS Trauma Committee and included facts and figures on trauma presentations, tips and tricks on its management and distribution of research worldwide. Emphasis was given to the importance of conducting research in developing countries. The neurosurgical leaders from around the world gave their comments and acknowledged the outstanding effort. The closing remarks were given by Prof Salman Sharif, where he extended everyone’s immense gratitude to all colleagues for their invaluable contributions of expertise, time and effort, thanks to which, the process of learning and training never stopped, even in the most difficult of times. The greatest achievement of all was the manner in which these webinars allowed trainees from around the globe to learn and gain wisdom from the best teachers, from the comfort of their homes. The ceremony concluded with both presenters and attendees sharing their invaluable feedback and appreciation for this enormous initiative that was only made possible thanks to the tireless efforts of each and every person who helped to organize it. Of particular note was Prof Franco Servadei’s inspirational approach, which proved to be a great source of motivation for everyone in the WFNS and the PSN to conduct over 150 webinars.
On this occasion, Prof Franco Servadei, President of WFNS, expressed his happiness for collaboration with Prof Salman Sharif and Prof Tariq Khan and all other friends from Pakistan. He said that he has hundreds of messages from all over the world for the PSN, saying “Don’t Stop”. They are asking you and WFNS to “please continue these webinars”. It is a very unique idea and WFNS fully supports these educational activities.
Prof David Adelson, Coordinator of WFNS Committee Activities, thanked Prof Salman Sharif and PSN for the forward push with these electronic webinars during the difficult time of COVID.
Prof Miguel Arraez, WFNS Foundation Chair, thanked all the faculty for fantastic webinars and congratulated PSN and the organizers for great success. He said the real leaders are those who have been involved in Neurosurgery’s international educational activities during this tough time.
A video was shared as an expression of gratitude to all front-line health care workers and as a remembrance for all those who lost their lives in this battle. Virtual certificates were given by Prof Franco Servadei, Prof Salman Sharif, Prof Tariq Khan, Prof David Adelson, and other eminent neurosurgeons to presenters and moderators of the first 50 webinars. A vote of thanks was given by Prof Tariq Khan and a group photograph taken to mark the occasion.
Prof Servaidei, Prof Salman Sharif and the organizers at Liaquat National Hospital, PSN and WFNS expressed their commitment to continue such activities for Neurosurgeons across the globe. The amazing success of this global neurosurgical education program showed that it is possible to unite the neurosurgical community and achieve the unimaginable.
We wish Prof Franco Servadei (Italy) and Prof Nelson Oyesiku (USA) the very best for future.
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