Dr. Quinsey consenting Malawi residents prior to medical procedures.
Dr. Quinsey consenting Malawi residents prior to medical procedures

As is the case with each of her trips to Malawi, Dr. Carolyn Quinsey, Assistant Professor of Pediatric Neurosurgery at the School of Medicine, returned to Chapel Hill from her third visit to the African nation with a renewed appreciation for the tools and support available to U.S. neurosurgeons. She also came back excited about the opportunities that await the 12 neurosurgery residents who will each travel to Malawi one time during their residency, working alongside Malawian doctors to expand neurosurgical care for those who need it most.

While in Malawi, these UNC residents will care for infants and children suffering from hydrocephalus (the buildup of fluid in brain cavities) and young adults who have experienced a traumatic brain injury, often as the result of a car accident or an assault. Like many countries in Africa, Malawi’s prevalence of congenital hydrocephalus is about double that of the U.S. The different disease distribution means that Malawian doctors are performing more surgeries to treat it, ultimately presenting an opportunity for UNC neurosurgeons to learn from those who know the surgery best.

For Dr. Quinsey, this learning is what is most special about the UNC Neurosurgery Initiative in Malawi. She recalls her first trip to Africa—a trip to Uganda as a study abroad student at the University of Wisconsin at Madison. She credits this trip with changing her perspective on medicine, ultimately making her a better physician. She wants UNC neurosurgery residents to have this same opportunity to provide global care at the Neurosurgery Initiative’s partner hospital in Malawi.

Kamuzu Central Hospital (KCH) has a long history of partnering with UNC to improve health outcomes in Malawi—The Division of Infectious Disease has worked with KCH since 1990, ultimately forming UNC Project Malawi in 1999. The Department of Surgery’s Malawi Surgical Initiative has provided training for the Kamuzu General Surgery Residency Program since 2009. In fact, Dr. Quinsey’s first visit to Malawi in 2016 was to visit the Malawi Surgical Initiative with Dr. Anthony Charles.

UNC’s next steps in growing the partnership with KCH include equipping the hospital with much-needed disposable surgical equipment and supporting the work of a recently hired Malawian neurosurgeon. Dr. Quinsey is particularly excited about a new virtual operating room mentorship that will allow the KCH neurosurgeon to collaborate and problem-solve in real time with colleagues in Chapel Hill. The partnership between UNC and KCH is a wonderful example of how supporting global care leads to the growth and development of UNC physicians right here in North Carolina.

To learn more about UNC’s neurosurgery global impact and how you can support these initiatives at home and around the globe, contact Aron Johnson, Director of Development – Neurosciences, at 919-843-9902 or aron_johnson@med.unc.edu or Dr. Quinsey at carolyn_quinsey@med.unc.edu.

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