About the symposium
It is with great honour and priviledge that I present the summary of the recent inaugural meeting of the International Association of Student Surgical Societies (IASSS). The Inaugural IASSS Symposium, “Becoming a Surgical Pioneer”, was held at the University of Cape Town (UCT) in South Africa and was hosted by the UCT Surgical Society between 7 and 10 July 2014.
The IASSS is a student-led global society focused on student surgical education. Founded in 2011, the UCT Surgical Society, by being one of the founders and chief developer of the IASSS, has had a substantial influence in the already dominant presence of the international society with membership spanning 5 continents across the globe. The IASSS aims to create an international hub run by students for students, focusing on global collaboration in open educational resources, research, and elective programmes, as well as providing means for founding support in developing new student surgical societies worldwide.
The Inaugural IASSS Symposium 2014 was set in the backdrop of the majestic Table Mountain in the beautiful city of Cape Town – a historical backdrop which saw Dr Christiaan Barnard perform the first successful human heart transplant at Groote Schuur Hospital in 1967. This iconic setting now witnessed another groundbreaking moment in surgical history. This congress stands as the first-ever congregation of medical students from around the world coming together for the purpose of global surgical collaboration and education.
The symposium was attended by 116 students representing 5 continents, 15 countries, and 20 academic institutions. The majority delegation representing African countries, as well as the host country mirror the Afro-centricity of the project. Over the 4 days students were enlightened about the wonders of surgical innovation by current surgical pioneers (true to the symposium theme) including Prof. Andrew Nicol (trauma) and Dr Elmi Muller (HIV transplantation) amongst others, students were provoked to tackle prevalent issues in global surgery through a student debate entitled “This House believes that medical students in developing countries are better trained than those in developed countries to become surgical pioneers of the 21st century”, and students were given insight into global innovation through guest talks by Dr Francois Bonnici (social innovation) and Prof. Sats Pillay (ISS-SIC) on African surgical health concerns.
The true innovation in education came in the focus of the symposium on practical workshops throughout the programme. These covered 4 themes: Neuroanatomy & neurosurgery; Trauma skills; Theatre etiquette & laparoscopy; and the practical use of trauma-based ultrasound and echocardiography. For most students this was the first practical experience they had in these fields, and for others it served as reinforcement of skills vital for future surgeons, but nonetheless benefit was gained by all.
Of course no event would be complete without an element of competition, which came to Cape Town in the form of a global student research competition, educational video competition, TopKnife competition for practical skills, and a golf day.
The final outcome of the symposium was that of the inaugural committee meeting of the IASSS where the outgoing president, Tinashe Chandauka (final year, UCT) handed over to the president-elect, Danielle Ferrar (5th year, UCT) and her newly elected executive committee for the 2014/15 term.
Congratulations must be given to Luke Kuttschreuter (final year, UCT) and his team of 13 students for organizing and executing with untold success an event worthy of recognition in surgical history as the first-ever, student-led innovation in global surgical education – the Inaugural IASSS Symposium 2014.
Words by: Luke Kuttschreuter (Chairman: Organising Committee) and Tinashe Chandauka (outgoing President: IASSS), both final year at UCT.