Dr Paul Odula: INNOVATE+ and the Surgical Society of Kenya’s partnership with Proximie

Dr Paul Odula: INNOVATE+ and the  Surgical Society of Kenya’s partnership with Proximie

Dr. Paul Odula is the President of the Surgical Society of Kenya (SSK), the Strategic Program Area Lead of Human Anatomy at The University of Nairobi, a member of the Proximie Global Health steering committee and a general surgeon. He is heavily involved in surgical training at undergraduate and postgraduate levels, as well as in research, ensuring that surgeons in Kenya are able to achieve their goals.

To this end, the SSK has recently partnered with Proximie for INNOVATE+ - a results-driven public-private partnership that demonstrates the transformative power of digital technology in addressing inequitable access to surgical care - with the aim of improving surgical training in Kenya. Here, Dr Paul Odula speaks about the mechanics and importance of the partnership.

What are the goals of the SSK?

The SSK represents approximately 600 surgeons in Kenya, and our mandate covers two main areas. The first is to look at how we can take care of the welfare of surgeons by improving and upscaling their skills, so they can operate as efficiently as possible. The second is to improve the quality of surgical services to patients. One of my roles is to increase visibility of the SSK through social programmes, in order to make people appreciate the value of seeking medical attention early when they have surgical problems, so they can be sorted out electively rather than waiting until it's too late.

What are the benefits of technology and innovation within surgical practice?

Technological innovations like Proximie are exciting because they can help improve training or reduce the learning curve by connecting you with experts not just locally but internationally. It also enables you to monitor trainees and surgeons throughout their practice - especially in operating theatres - and makes it possible for surgeons to archive recordings of their own procedures.This way they can check on their performance periodically and constantly find new ways to upscale their surgical techniques. Improving access to better training and the tools for continual skill development will help rapidly increase the surgical workforce and improve patient outcomes.

What led to SSK and Proximie collaborating on INNOVATE+?

Proximie’s goals are perfectly aligned with those of the SSK, and we realised there are so many things we can achieve together; not just upscaling surgical skill in Kenya, but facilitating collaboration between surgeons in a way that improves patient outcomes in the long run. Proximie is going to play a key role in helping Kenyan surgeons to reduce patients’ suffering and improve their quality of life.

"Proximie is going to play a key role in helping Kenyan surgeons to reduce patients’ suffering and improve their quality of life."

What changes do you anticipate Proximie will make to operating rooms at INNOVATE+ hub sites?

It’s going to be a big win, because half the time trainee surgeons are unsure what they’re doing when they’re heading into the OR, and there may or may not be a senior surgeon there to guide them. With Proximie’s technology, however, it is now possible to literally monitor trainee surgeons from wherever a senior surgeon might be, and then later on replay  recordings of procedures and establish how the trainee surgeon’s performance can be improved.

Before now, not everything would have been monitored and there would be no clear, multi-angle recording of events as is made possible by Proximie. It’s so important to have a clear and honest record of each procedure, otherwise there will be uncertainty around what has happened, making it harder to train based on the experience. Creating that level of openness will improve training in any surgical practice.

What positive impact do you envision INNOVATE+ having further in the future?

Proximie is going to make it possible for us to do major surgeries in many centres around the country. For example, transplant surgery is something that’s usually done in only one or two counties, and that’s something that needs to be possible in a much higher number of locations. Through Proximie, counties will be able to keep abreast of what procedures are being carried out in neighbouring areas, how they have transformed their training programmes, and how this can be matched or benchmarked. Connectivity is key, and Proximie is making that possible through this collaboration.

“Connectivity is key, and Proximie is making that possible through this collaboration.”

This is just the beginning; I envision great things happening in the future. The Proximie technology is going to take our research to the next level; it creates an enabling environment that makes it much easier for surgeons to record and monitor surgical outcomes without necessarily having to look through written files. They can just play the video and see exactly what happened intraoperatively; this is what happened, this was done a number of times, this is how many people were in the OR, this is how the surgeon completed this procedure and this was the outcome. This level of objective detail is going to transform the production and output of our research and surgical practice.

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