Quantifying the clinical exposure required to adequately prepare surgeons for deployment to conflict zones and to manage mass casualty situations.
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Introduction: The ongoing state of global geo-political instability means that it is prudent, even in peaceful countries, to prepare civilian surgeons to manage major military-type trauma. However, preparing a modern surgeon to manage mass shooting or terrorist-related injuries remains an ongoing challenge in many countries. In addition, there is no consensus on the key skill set a modern trauma or military surgeon requires to competently manage major trauma patients. Chapter 1 of this thesis reviews the trauma workload and operative exposure in a major South African trauma center and provides a comparison with contemporary experience from major military conflicts. It would appear that a South African trauma center has a sufficient burden of trauma and academic capability to train both military and civilian trauma surgeons. Based on our trauma workload, a 6-month rotation through a major South African trauma center should be sufficient to provide exposure to almost all major injuries in appropriate volumes to prepare a military surgeon for combat deployment. Chapter 2 of this thesis reviews the state of trauma training and preparedness in Japan and the trauma workload of a major Japanese emergency medical center, and goes on to compare it with that of a major South African trauma center. The intention is to quantify and compare the time required to gain adequate exposure to major trauma at the two respective centers. It is apparent that trauma training in Japan is hampered by a lack of clinical material as well as by systematic factors. South Africa, in contrast, has a huge burden of trauma, sufficient academic infrastructure, and relatively modern facilities, which ensures that surgeons have adequate exposure to major trauma. Developing an academic exchange program between Japan and South Africa may allow for the transfer of trauma experience and skills between the two countries. Chapter 3 of this thesis is a structured survey designed to investigate the role of international trauma clinical electives in South Africa, and to assess the impact these have had on the career of the various foreign surgeons who have undertaken them. The data demonstrated that an international trauma clinical elective in South Africa provides unparalleled exposure to almost all forms of trauma in conjunction with a well-developed academic support program. The trainees who completed such an elective all felt that the trauma training with clinical exposure was of inestimable value and substantially enhanced their career. Conclusion: South Africa has a sufficient burden of trauma to train surgeons to manage military and major civilian trauma. In addition, South African major trauma centers have sufficient academic support and capacity to ensure such training is structured and academically sound. In contrast, trauma training in Japan is impeded by a lack of clinical material as well as by systematic factors. Training a trauma-competent military or civilian surgeon in such an environment is difficult. An international trauma clinical elective in South Africa provides an unparalleled exposure to almost all forms of trauma in conjunction with a well-developed academic support program. For peaceful countries such as Japan, developing academic exchange programs with countries such as South Africa, which can offer broader trauma experience, is essential and can be mutually beneficial.