New centre will strengthen radiodiagnosis expertise

The training capacity and expertise at the Division of Radiodiagnosis at Stellenbosch University (SU) will be significantly strengthened by a global learning centre that is being established there with the help of the Radiology Society of North America (RSNA).
The concept of the global learning centre is the most recent initiative of the RSNA’s Committee for International Radiology Education. “It seeks to collaborate with a specialist radiology training program in a low- or middle-income country with a view to enhancing the training capacity and expertise on that platform,” explains Prof Richard Pitcher, head of the Division of Radiodiagnosis at SU’s Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences.
The Division of Radiodiagnosis at SU was the first to be selected after 24 interested institutions from 14 low- and middle-income countries around the globe applied.
“The award affirms the strength of SU’s existing specialist training platform in diagnostic radiology. It acknowledges the quality of overall academic leadership, the presence of a stable and exceptionally dedicated cohort of academic staff, the departmental research outputs and collaborations, the scope of clinical services at SU’s teaching hospitals and the presence of well-maintained and modern imaging equipment, including a fully digital, filmless and paperless imaging department. The award essentially acknowledges the pre-eminence of SU’s radiology training program amongst low- and middle-income counterparts,” says Pitcher.
According to him his division has applied for recognition as a global learning centre since the program promised to be an excellent opportunity to provide career advancement and career pathing for the ten full-time specialists on the academic staff through mentorship from experts in North America. “The program will equip our academic staff with additional clinical and training expertise in certain highly specialised aspects of diagnostic imaging. This will, in turn, be a major benefit for our postgraduate students and, perhaps most importantly, contribute to improved patient care.”
The SU’s Division of Radiodiagnosis has enjoyed an informal and very fruitful association with the RSNA’s Committee on International Radiology Education over more than a decade. SU has participated in the committee’s Visiting International Professors program over this period and has hosted visiting lecturers from North America on two occasions.
“Over the same period our postgraduate students have also benefitted from the committee’s Introduction to Research for International Young Academics program. Successful applicants receive a travel and accommodation stipend to participate in a five-day mentoring program during the RSNA’s annual meeting in Chicago.”
The global learning centre program commenced in January 2020 and will provide the academic staff at the Division of Radiodiagnosis with highly specialised training in three key aspects of diagnostic imaging, namely musculoskeletal, cardiac and pulmonary radiology.
The program will be led Dr Mark Cresswell, a musculoskeletal radiologist from the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada. From America he will be assisted by Profs Prachi Agarwal, Professor of Radiology and Director of the Division of Cardiothoracic Imaging at the University of Michigan, Brian Mullan, Clinical Professor of Radiology and Head of Pulmonary Imaging at the Carver College of Medicine of the University of Iowa, and Omer Awan, Associate Professor of Radiology and musculoskeletal radiologist in the University of Maryland School of Medicine.
Teaching will take place on a hybrid platform, which will include on-site visits to SU, on-line teaching material and interactive webinars.
Nearly R900 000 has been made available for a virtual classroom, which will be finalised within the next three months.
The virtual classroom will provide the platform for real-time teaching, clinical demonstrations and interaction between remote sites, in this instance between SU and several sites in North America, by making use of high-speed internet connectivity, modern computer software and state-of-the art audio-visual technology to optimise communication.
However, with Covid-19 certain adjustments had to be made and the program will be extended beyond the three year term due to travel restrictions, says Pitcher.
FMHS Marketing & Communications - Jackie Pienaar-Brink