What do you do when you find a beautiful treasure hidden in a field? After celebrating that it’s there, you invite others to come and see.
Tucked away in Mbale, Uganda, is one such gem. At CURE Uganda, a Christian hospital specializing in pediatric neurosurgery, approximately 1,500 neurosurgical procedures are performed every year. Comparatively, this exceeds the volume represented by seven pediatric neurosurgeons at Boston Children’s Hospital, an institution widely known for excellence in this field. While the volume has captured the attention of a global audience, it is the opportunities that have come with this surgical volume that we find beautiful and bright.
CURE Uganda has come to be known as the place where the ETV/CPC technique (endoscopic third ventriculostomy and choroid plexus cauterization) for treating hydrocephalus was pioneered and became an alternative to the insertion of a shunt. While this discovery alone was a huge contribution to the advancement of care for children with neurodisabilities, we felt it should not stop there.
A training program, known today as CURE Neuro, was birthed in 2005 to train surgeons from low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) in comprehensively treating infant hydrocephalus. By spreading the innovation and expertise of CURE Uganda to the rest of the world, the CURE Neuro program has helped strengthen the healthcare system of many LMICs by enhancing their neurosurgical capacity.
More than 35 surgeons representing over 20 countries have been trained through the program. Since program inception, over 20,000 procedures have been performed globally by those who have completed the training.
Perhaps to the surprise of many, it was not just LMIC neurosurgeons who came to benefit. In a rare and remarkable way, neurosurgeons from more developed countries have come to learn from African neurosurgeons. The ETV/CPC procedure pioneered in Uganda is now being used in Europe and North America.
By welcoming fellows from high-income countries, the program has created a multiplier effect. CURE Neuro is currently hosting a fellow who has been training in the United States under a neurosurgeon who received training from the founding Medical Director of CURE Uganda, Dr. Benjamin Warf. This fellow has also been mentored by another neurosurgeon who has spent time at CURE Uganda. Many of the trainees from high-income countries go on to become mentors to those practicing in the low- and middle-income countries.
The program has succeeded because of the collective efforts of Dr. Warf, Dr. John Mugamba, Dr. Peter Ssenyonga, Dr. Justin Onen, Dr. Emmanuel Wegoye, Charles Howard, Derek Johnson, and Tim Erickson, as well as many others at CURE Uganda and its global partners.
Many of these same individuals have directly contributed to the global advancement in the management of hydrocephalus and spina bifida through research initiatives. The clinical research performed at CURE Uganda over the past 15 years has not only provided the data to support CURE’s comprehensive treatment approach, it has also provided the data for a number of other related studies.
With the help of CURE Neuro and its network of trained neurosurgeons spread across the globe, the potential for future studies continues to expand. Through the continued training and discovery at CURE Uganda, and the connections being made across the globe, we are convinced this treasure has even greater potential.