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Smile Train, NSOANP champion training of healthcare providers in research and funding

By Guardian Nigeria
04 March 2022   |   2:29 am
In a bid to bridge the knowledge gap in the area of medical research, the World’s largest Cleft Care Charity Organisation, Smile Train, in partnership with the National Surgical, Obstetrics, Anaesthesia and Nursing Plan (NSOANP) for Nigeria recently organised a five day cleft research and grants writing for healthcare providers, aimed at creating more impact…

In a bid to bridge the knowledge gap in the area of medical research, the World’s largest Cleft Care Charity Organisation, Smile Train, in partnership with the National Surgical, Obstetrics, Anaesthesia and Nursing Plan (NSOANP) for Nigeria recently organised a five day cleft research and grants writing for healthcare providers, aimed at creating more impact in the scientific world, and boosting their capacity in conducting research as well as critical research appraisal.

The workshop which was held in Lagos state, and had in attendance, several surgeons and other healthcare workers drawn from various hospitals across the country, exposing them to an array of impactful activities.

In her opening remarks, Smile Train Vice-President and Regional Director for Africa, Mrs. Nkeiruka Obi, restated the organization’s commitment to developing comprehensive cleft care. She explained that Smile Train has set aside a significant amount of money to support grants and fund research on cleft care adding that data was critical.

“Research is a spectrum, so we are looking at the preventive measures, treatment models/protocols, the rehabilitative aspect of cleft care given the fact that the moment a baby is discovered to have a cleft, research will pick it through prenatal diagnosis, when the child is born, and then the child will undergo surgery and so on.”

Speaking more about the training, a Paediatric Surgeon at National Hospital, Abuja, and Training Coordinator, Professor Emmanuel Ameh, said the entire programme is a research training designed to see how surgeons and healthcare providers’ research capacity in the country can be enhanced and expanded.

According to him, “One of the biggest challenges we have in the country is the fact that generating reliable and accurate data across our healthcare system has been a difficult thing for some time, and to be able to do that, you need to do good research. So we are training people on how to do good research.”

On Smile Train’s involvement in the capacity building programme, he said, “Primarily, there is a National Surgical, Obstetrics, Anaesthesia and Nursing Plan that was created by the Federal Ministry of Health, to help the country to strengthen surgical care, and one of the key priorities of the plan is research. “Smile Train keyed into that key priority by funding it, because the government simply doesn’t have enough funding for that, hence Smile Train is supporting by providing funding to achieve that research priority.

“Smile Train first came into this country about 21 years ago. All these while they have been providing funding for the actual treatment of children and patients with Cleft Lips/Palate (CLP), but since last year, they decided to provide money for research, which was not there before. “They created several priorities so that researchers can be focused. And they are putting money into these priorities. “So when Smile Train partners and researchers create or submit their grant application and it fits into any of those priorities and its good research, they provide the funding for it,” he noted.

Speaking about the training, an attendee, a Plastic Surgeon at the University of Port Harcourt Teaching Hospital, Dr. Oti Nima-Aria, said she felt very “privileged to be among those Smile Train and NSOANP is sponsoring for this training. I am looking forward to improving my cleft care, especially in the area of research. “Just from the introduction, I already know that there is a whole lot of information I will be leaving here with, and I hope to be able to pass it on to other people at my centre to improve cleft care. “I would say Nigeria still has a whole lot of improvement to do. I am grateful to Smile Train for helping to cover some of the gaps we currently have. “I hope that with time, more agencies will see the need to encourage research because basically, evidence-based medicine is what we need. We don’t just say that this is the common thing when you don’t have evidence to back it up. “Research has also helped to direct policymaking, especially in healthcare, but we still have a long way to go in Nigeria, and I believe we will get there.”

Also speaking, another attendee, a Plastic Surgeon at the National Orthopedic Hospital, Enugu, Dr. Ifeanyichukwu Onah described the training as a welcome development. According to him, “When we look at research in the world, low-income countries are the least in terms of volumes, yet the burdens of those who need the outcome of the research are found mostly there. “And sometimes, the research designs coming from the other places don’t take into context our sensitivities. So this is a very welcome training to help us do research properly.

“Properly done research will result in protocols that will help the maximum number of persons in a very safe way. So we are being trained to be able to design and push out proper protocols, not just to know what is happening but to know how to impact people, and we are very grateful for the opportunity.”

Dr. Onah noted that efforts towards the funding of research are very little from the government, and for you to access funding, as little as it may be, you have to be in a tertiary institution, which is the only way to access money in the vault for research from TETFund.

“But if you are not in a tertiary institution for education, then what is available is very little. A lot of people now resort to pharmaceuticals to help them with funding. “And once you go to someone to help you for funding, conflict of interest comes in which affects the quality and value of your research. The countries that have produced the biggest numbers of Nobel Prize winners are those that have invested the most in research. “Like Israel, they have a record number of Nobel Prize winners. And they are a country that invests the most in research.”

Similarly, another attendee from University College Hospital (UCH) Ibadan, Dr. Abosede Adebayo described the training as fantastic. According to her, “The environment for learning is great with no distraction. And I see a focused curriculum or plan for us to make a difference. It’s beyond just learning something. They want us to make a difference, and I am beginning to feel like that already.” Dr. Adebayo noted that research funding in Nigeria was at an abysmal state. She said the government doesn’t understand why it is important to fund research. “They are not funding research the way it needs to be funded. Most of the research that has made a difference in the medical world has been from outside. We need to do more.”

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