Banded Aid: Twinning plastic surgery units
British female surgeon creates surgical charity to support surgical needs of developing countries
Driven by her passion for treating life-altering injuries and disabilities, British plastic surgeon Barbara Jemec has set up BFIRST; the British Foundation for International Reconstructive Surgery and Training, which aims to twin every plastic surgery unit (circa 60) in Britain with one in the developing world. The foundation has already sent UK surgeons to Cambodia and is planning to work in other countries including Myanmar and Bangladesh to deliver training and surgical skills to local medics, ensuring that everyone has access to expert surgical care.
Deformities and traumatic injuries can often result in social exclusion, poverty and destitution in a developing country. BFIRST not only trains surgeons on location, but also ensures that the training has practical longevity and is tailored according to the resources available, meaning that each country will have a unique package which best fits their needs and available resources. In three trips to Cambodia alone, BFIRST surgeons working alongside local teams have treated over 45 hand surgery cases including burns and trauma, congenital deformities, tumours and snake bites.
The charity; which was launched at British Association of Plastic, Reconstructive and Aesthetic Surgeons’ (BAPRAS) Winter Scientific Meeting at the Royal College of Surgeons of England; recognises that the benefits of such a drive are mutual, with UK-based surgeons also learning valuable skills whilst at the location.
BFIRST’s training packages also incorporate training for surgeons’ staff, such as nurses and therapists, enabling the medical and surgical team to provide holistic care for all patients. The charity is currently training a number of surgeons abroad, including three in Cambodia.
Chairman of BFIRST Barbara Jemec says, “BFIRST equips surgeons with an array of key skills, allowing them to offer life-saving (and livelihood-saving) care. The vision for BFIRST is to provide surgeons in developing countries the skill set they require to continue using the techniques they have learned via our tailored training packages. Our long-term vision is to have most of the UK plastic surgery units twinned with a unit abroad, forging long-term friendships, collaboration and support.”
BFIRST has also funded Fellowships, which involve surgeons from resource-poor countries visiting UK plastic surgery centres, where they are taught relevant surgical skills. One such surgeon is Dr. Rashedul Islam, who came to the UK in 2013 through BFIRST. Dr. Islam, a plastic surgeon from Bangladesh, stayed for six weeks to train, an experience he is very thankful for.
BFIRST relies on donations to continue with its mission. Suggested amounts range from just £40, which can pay for gloves, antiseptic cleaning solution and dressings for fifteen patients, to £850, which can pay for a week’s plastic surgery training for a local doctor. Donations can be made on the BFIRST website: www.mydonate.bt.com/charities/bfirst