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SMU receives first donation for Anatomy Department

Cadaver freezer room established to enhance medical training

Thursday, January 22 2015

Wednesday 22 April 2015, Only a few days after the Sefako Makgatho Health Sciences University’s (SMU) official launch on 14 April 2015, it received its first donation. The R100 000 donation was made by Netcare, through the Netcare Foundation, to the University’s Anatomy Department for the establishment of a freezer room (with a temperature of -27 C) for medical training purposes.

Henry Human, head of SMU’s Anatomy Department, says the cold room is a freezer facility for cadavers, an integral part of the training for postgraduate students and even qualified specialists. SMU is the first South African university to have established such a facility on such a large scale.

“Cadavers, which are human bodies used for medical training and research, are usually preserved through embalming,” Human explains.

“However, this method of preservation does not always enable optimal training. Embalming causes the bodies’ tissues to become too firm and does not give the students a true feeling for the procedures they will one day perform on living people. The colours and textures of the tissues in an embalmed cadaver are also very different to how they will appear in a living patient,” Human explains.

He said that plastic anatomical models were also not comparable, in terms of the quality of training experience, to that made possible with real cadavers.

“It is important that students are 100% sure of procedures by preparing for them in conditions that are as close as possible to those they will encounter when working on a live patient,” Human added.

Netcare’s director of business development and corporate affairs and a director of the Netcare Foundation, Tumi Nkosi, handed over the cheque for R100 000 to SMU acting executive dean, Prof. Olalekan Ayo-Yusuf.

Government separated the Medical University of Southern Africa (Medunsa) and the University of Limpopo, with the standalone Medunsa campus, in Garankuwa, becoming the SMU. It opened its doors in January this year and was officially launched earlier this month.

Commenting on the donation, Nkosi said that, as an organisation that values the important role of healthcare professionals, Netcare was pleased to make a contribution to the ongoing education of medical students who will one day play a significant role in serving the healthcare needs of our nation.

Present at the handover were, from left to right: Mr Henry Human, Department of Anatomy at SMU; Prof Gboyega Adebola Ogunbanjo, Acting Director Medical Faculty at SMU; Mande Toubkin, Director of the Netcare Foundation; Ben Rood, Hospital General Manager at Netcare Pretoria East Hospital; Prof Olalekan Ayo-Yusuf, Acting Executive Dean at SMU; Tumi Nkosi, Director of the Netcare Foundation; and Dr Andre Meyer, Department of Plastic surgery at SMU.

“As a committed healthcare stakeholder, Netcare contributes to the normalisation of healthcare delivery in our country through a number of initiatives. We are passionate about healthcare education and we view the development of healthcare skills as an invaluable instrument in achieving such normalisation.”

Nkosi pointed out that an example of Netcare’s commitment to education in the healthcare sector in South Africa is the Hamilton Naki Scholarship.

The scholarship has to date been awarded to eight South African specialists from disadvantaged backgrounds and it will enable them to undertake doctoral or post-doctoral training and research at leading local or overseas institutions for three or more years. The scholarship is awarded under the umbrella of the Physician Partnerships Trust, which forms part of Netcare’s Health Partners for Life.

Nkosi noted that it is important to Netcare to encourage and nurture growth and innovation in the healthcare sector. “This donation is a tangible gesture by Netcare to assist in advancing healthcare in our country. We wish the SMU students tenacity and strength in the long hours of study that await them,” concluded Nkosi.

Editors’ notes: cadavers and the art of surgery

Human says training using cadavers preserved through freezing is invaluable to medical training as it provides the best hands-on experience possible.

“Cadavers that have been preserved through freezing are the most lifelike specimens for trainee doctors, junior surgeons and even experienced surgeons to hone their techniques, which will be to the benefit of their patients. The general public might not like to think about this aspect of medical training, but it is vital to building lifesaving expertise among medical practitioners,” notes Human.

The SMU Anatomy Department, its staff and students take the ethical handling of the cadavers very seriously. “They are always treated with the utmost respect since we realise that they were someone’s loved one. The people who donate their bodies, after death, to furthering medical research and training are making a wonderful contribution to the living.”

Unclaimed bodies are also sometimes donated to medical research if the extensive process of trying to track down their next of kin has been unsuccessful. The SMU facility allows for cadavers to be frozen for months before dissection, which extends the window period for the bodies to be claimed.

A number of students can study using the same cadaver over a period of up to a year. Undergraduates gain practical anatomical knowledge through this training, while postgraduates practise a variety of procedures on the cadavers.

Plastic and reconstruction surgeon at Netcare Pretoria East Hospital and part-time consultant to the university, Dr Andre Meyer, says that practising procedures on cadavers is an excellent means of perfecting intricate operations. “It is an effective model of training junior surgeons to a safe level before touching a live patient, allowing them to become familiar with the fine art of surgery,” Dr Meyer explains.

Dr Meyer says the establishment of the freezer room has also paved the way for specialised workshops at SMU to help experts develop their skills. The first such workshop will be held in May by international rhinoplasty authority, Prof. Wolfgang Gubisch, who is flying out from Stuttgard, Germany, to deliver lectures and lead the workshop. This workshop is fully booked and will be attended by surgeons from South Africa and around the world.

Ends

Issued by: Martina Nicholson Associates (MNA) on behalf of Netcare
Contact : Martina Nicholson, Graeme Swinney, Sarah Wilson or Meggan Saville
Telephone: (011) 469 3016
Email: martina@mnapr.co.za, graeme@mnapr.co.za, sarah@mnapr.co.za or meggan@mnapr.co.za

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