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Professor Peter Donkor appointed President of the West African College of Surgeons

Prof. Peter Donkor

Professor Peter Donkor, a Professor of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery, from the School of Medicine and Dentistry, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) has been inducted into office as the 31st President of the West African College of Surgeons (WACS) during its just-ended AGM and Scientific Conference held in Cotonou, Benin Republic from 14th to 16th June 2021. He will serve a 2-year term till 2023.

The WACS started as the Association of Surgeons of West Africa in 1960 by the freewill of practicing specialist surgeons in the 17 Anglophone, Francophone Lusophone countries. In actualizing its vision and mission, the WACS trains, examines, and certifies doctors as specialists in Anaesthesia, Dental Surgery, Obstetrics & Gynaecology, Ophthalmology, Orthopaedics, Otorhinolaryngology, Radiology (Radiodiagnosis/Radiotherapy), and Surgery which include the following sub-specialties: Cardiothoracic, General, Neuro, Paediatric, Plastic and Reconstructive, and Urology. The certifications of the College namely Fellowship, Membership and Diploma are recognised in the participating countries and guaranteed by the signatories of the West African Health Community Treaty. Since its inception, the College has graduated over 7,000 Fellows, the majority of who are working in the sub-region.

WACS fosters and coordinates education and research in Surgery; collaborates with appropriate national and international bodies; publishes journals, pamphlets, and memoranda; organises meetings, symposia, conferences, and sets up appropriate committees in line with the objectives of the Surgical College.

In his acceptance speech titled: “Tackling the surgical manpower deficit – a post COVID-19 imperative for WACS”, he stated that conditions for which surgical treatment is required account for 35% of the global burden of disease; therefore, “health for all” cannot be attained unless most of our population has access to quality surgical services. The provision of essential surgical care, he said, would avert about 1.5 million deaths a year worldwide, more than the combined global deaths caused by HIV, Tuberculosis (TB), and Malaria.

Touching on the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on surgery, some surgeons died from the infection and others became incapacitated, further reducing available surgeon numbers. The restrictions imposed on containing the pandemic led to the cancellation of non-emergency operations, creating a backlog, and further increasing the disease burden. The clinical and operative experience of trainees were curtailed, negatively affecting manpower production.  The full impact of COVID-19 on surgery is not known and data is needed to determine the effect of the delay in elective surgery on our communities and the surgical system.  

Professor Donkor noted that the lack of adequate surgical manpower is inimical to the safe delivery of health services to the 400 million people of West Africa.  He proposed several strategies that WACS could pursue to boost the number of surgical providers in the sub-region. These include increased intake into surgical training programmes, recruitment of younger trainees, shortening of training, the attraction of more female doctors to specialize in surgery, decentralization of training to involve more sites, increased use of technology for training, equipping generalist doctors with surgical skills, increasing the numbers and capacity of trainers, mentorship of trainees to improve performance, improving research capacity, training more medical undergraduates, advocacy for greater investment in surgery, and enhanced practitioner welfare, and expanding partnerships and collaborations.

Professor Donkor comes into the new role with several years of experience as a clinician, academic, researcher and administrator.  He has held various positions at KNUST which include, Pro-Vice-Chancellor; Founding Director, Office of Grants and Research; Provost, College of Health Sciences; and Head, Department of Surgery.  He has served as President of the following organisations: Ghana Surgical Research Society; Ghana Cleft Foundation; Pan-African Association for Cleft Lip and Palate; and African forum for Research and Education in Health. He is co-founder of the Head & Neck Oncology clinic and Multidisciplinary Cleft lip and Palate Clinics at the Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital. He has an extensive network of local and international research collaborations.

The West African College of Surgeons and the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology have had a longstanding and mutually beneficial relationship. Surgeons trained and certified by WACS as Fellows have been a major source of clinical lecturers for appointment to the School of Medicine and Dentistry, to teach both undergraduate and postgraduate students. WACS Fellows have served in senior administrative positions in the university and provide specialist clinical services at the University Hospital. The University on its part supports WACS in several ways. For instance, KNUST lecturers teach, supervise, and examine WACS trainees, facilitate revision and continuous professional development courses, and participate in curriculum development activities of WACS. Furthermore, KNUST makes classrooms, laboratories, and computer resources available for use by WACS. It is expected that the collaboration between KNUST and WACS will be further strengthened.  

The Vice-Chancellor and the entire University community warmly congratulate Professor Peter Donkor and wish him a successful tenure.