Pediatric brain surgery is never an easy task, but it is even more difficult in developing countries.
While many charitable organizations bring neurosurgeons to disadvantaged locations around the world to perform much-needed surgeries, sometimes disease doesn’t wait.
Dr. Rahul Jandial, MD, a neurosurgeon at City of Hope hospital and professor at USC, has determined the best way to improve pediatric neurosurgery abroad is to effectively train and equip neurosurgeons in local areas. This way, patients may be helped at a crucial time that will improve their chances of a successful recovery. Jandial founded the International Neurosurgical Children’s Association (INCA) to develop neurosurgical capabilities abroad.
“INCA is unique because we equip, educate and empower local neurosurgeons to perform operations without us” said Jandial about his motivation for founding INCA. By using a three-pronged approach of education, equipment, and empowerment, INCA ensures that its contributions will have a lasting impact on the quality of neurosurgery in each location they visit.
Neurosurgeons in INCA travel to large charity hospitals doubling as academic centers in densely populated cities that require training in modern brain surgery procedures. INCA puts a lot of thought into their selection process to make sure that their resources have the largest impact possible.
“We perform in-person visits to meet with faculty and evaluate facilities,” said Jandial. In this way, INCA confirms that the selected hospitals pledge to keep their acquired skills and equipment in the hospitals, available for disadvantaged children and to be passed on through the academic community, rather than moved to private clinics. On their weeklong trips, INCA’s medical professionals educate the local neurosurgeons on performing essential surgeries using modern, less invasive techniques and low-cost equipment.
Jandial explained the transition from learning to performing surgeries for the host neurosurgeons: “During the first (inaugural) mission, the host surgeons observe. During the subsequent missions they co-operate with one assisting surgeon. After this graded responsibility, they perform the operations without our assistance on the final mission.”
As of now, INCA has identified 11 specific charity hospitals to include in its mission “to raise the standard of pediatric neurosurgical care given to disadvantaged children worldwide.” So far, successful improvements have been made in Peru, Bolivia, Ukraine and Zambia.
In regards to the success of past missions, Dr. Jandial said “the most rewarding moment was an email from a Peruvian surgeon who sent pictures of a kid before and after surgery, a surgery he learned through us. That moment made me realize that real change could happen, not by us, but through the local surgeons.”
A charitable organization based on education ensures that cities characterized by poor neurological care can become sustainable. Children with life-threatening neurological problems are saved by the educated neurosurgeons in their own country in the most cost-effective manner.
Although students aren’t usually invited on the INCA trips abroad, comments, suggestions and donations are all gratefully accepted in order to help improve the organization. Dr. Jandial says “the most important thing is to go and try to improve the world around us, in your home, your city, the international community…with medicine, art, literature and all types of public
To find out more about the International Neurosurgical Children’s Association and how you can help the cause, visit www.incachildren.org.