Empowering surgeons: the female surgeon on a mission to accelerate surgery in Madagascar

With a focus on building the capacity of her island nation, Prof. Fanja, aims to ensure that patients continue to receive quality care long after she retires


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Empowering surgeons: the female surgeon on a mission to accelerate surgery in Madagascar


Professor Fanja is on a mission to uplift surgeons and enhance the healthcare system in her home nation of Madagascar.

Having benefited from the guidance of skilled teachers during her own training, Prof. Fanja, whose full name is Professor Fanjandrainy Rasoaherinomejanahary, specializes in surgery of the abdominal organs and entire digestive tract, is determined to pass on her knowledge to the next generation of surgeons.

In 2015, she had the opportunity to collaborate with Mercy Ships, a global health charity that works with governments and Ministries of Health to provide surgeries and training, during their work in Madagascar.

Through this partnership, Prof. Fanja received training in basic surgical skills acquired through simulation. Inspired by the experience, she later became a trainer herself, assisting Mercy Ships in teaching surgical simulation to Malagasy students.

“I remember it really well,” she said. “The Mercy Ships team was here to train us on basic surgical skills acquired through simulation.”

Prof. Fanja took a course from Mercy Ships at her workplace, Joseph Ravoahangy Andrianavalona Hospital (HJRA), a leading surgical center and the largest hospital in Madagascar. Afterwards, she was trained to be a trainer. She helped Mercy Ships teach other Malagasy students in 2016.

“From then onwards, they always called upon me to teach surgical simulation,” she said.

With a focus on building the capacity of her island nation, Prof. Fanja, aims to ensure that patients continue to receive quality care long after she retires.

“After Mercy Ships left, we tried to firmly establish the teachings that they gave us,” she said. “The students have more confidence, thanks to the training started by Mercy Ships, and that we have carried on.”

Prof. Fanja has taught in the nations of Benin, Cameroon, Guinea, and Senegal; and of course, in her home of Madagascar. Today, Prof. Fanja performs surgeries by day and teaches at night. She is passionate about working with her colleagues at HJRA to prepare the next generation of surgeons.

With only approximately 20 physicians in Madagascar for every 100,000 people, necessary surgical treatment feels out of reach for many.

2024 will mark the return of Mercy Ships’ hospital ship to Madagascar and a chance to strengthen foundations and partnerships. Previous field services by the charity in Madagascar since 1996, have seen more than 2,000 healthcare professionals receive training along with over 2,900 surgeries and more than 52,000 dental procedures.

One of the trainers who will be returning to work with the volunteer professionals of Mercy ships, working to accelerate access to surgical care and surgical education, will be Prof. Fanja.

Prof. Fanja said she is “delighted” to renew her partnership with Mercy Ships.

“I have high expectations of this return,” she said.

Prof. Fanja wants to partner with Mercy Ships in their Education, Training, and Advocacy (ETA) work. This program focuses on strengthening the host nation’s surgical and anesthetic systems by investing in training and mentoring local professionals, increasing the number of skilled surgeons in the nation, and creating sustainable educational programs. But Prof. Fanja wants the past to be just the foundation of what is to come.

“We should take on more challenges than we did before,” she said.

If trainings are held in more medical facilities across the country, Prof. Fanja said, it will “ensure the ongoing safety of patients all over the island.”

Prof. Fanja believes the human power and skill in her country are excellent, and quality of care has been consistently improving.

“There are lots of conditions now that we can treat here, and 10 years ago we would have sent the patient to France or to the United States,” she said. “So, I feel like surgical care is making good progress.”

However, Prof. Fanja said to support the skilled professionals in Madagascar, more training and better equipment and technical resources are needed. That’s where a partner like Mercy Ships comes in.

Her calling and dream is for her home country of Madagascar. “I dream of being able to have a fully equipped faculty of medicine,” she said.

Prof. Fanja pictures simulation labs where the training meets the highest of standards, and students get to practice with advanced equipment and modern technology.

“Patients will always exist,” she said. “I will retire at some point, and I might get ill one day, who knows? If we can’t ensure durability, then training standards will never improve.”

With a combination of a lasting, durable partnership, shared skills, and more technical resources and equipment for her country, Prof. Fanja believes things will indeed improve.

“That is my dream for Madagascar,” she said. “And I think it’s a dream for all of us.”

In 2024, Mercy Ships officially begins a new season operating as a two-ship fleet, with the Africa Mercy in Madagascar and the Global Mercy™ in Sierra Leone. These field services will not be possible without skilled volunteers to staff two crews, and partner with local surgeons like Prof. Fanja. We need crewmembers of all backgrounds and skillsets to find their purpose and their place on board (https://apo-opa.co/3H1pIz5).

Distributed by APO Group on behalf of Mercy Ships.

Copyright: Fresh Angle International (www.freshangleng.com)
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