ecancermedicalscience

Special Issue

Education and training of clinical oncologists—experience from a low-resource setting in Zimbabwe

23 Mar 2021
Ntokozo Ndlovu, Sandra Ndarukwa, Albert Nyamhunga, Patience Musiwa-Mba, Anna Mary Nyakabau, Webster Kadzatsa, Melinda Mushonga

As the burden of cancer increases worldwide, more so in low- and middle-income countries, one of the greatest challenges is human resource capacity development. Addressing this is critical in reducing the burden of cancer in the African continent. Other challenges include socio-economic demographics and disparities in the overall cancer care. Lack of sufficient numbers of qualified staff has been one of the obstacles in developing adequate and modern cancer treatment centres in Africa. Training in clinical oncology in Zimbabwe was established in 1990 through the collaboration between the Government of Zimbabwe and the WHO as a regional project. The training is offered by the University of Zimbabwe through the established Master of Medicine in Radiotherapy and Oncology (MMed Rad & Onco) postgraduate programme. Regional and local fellows have been trained, yielding more than 20 clinical oncologists over the years, who have initiated cancer treatment facilities in Africa and beyond. They have continued to train others, fulfilling the original WHO programme target of transfer of skills in sub-Saharan Africa. Collaborations with external partners have complemented efforts by the local faculty in addressing deficiencies in training, in areas where experts in the subject are lacking and in supporting nationals working abroad to come and teach newer technologies and techniques. The curriculum continues to evolve from knowledge-based training to competency-based training. However, there is a need to expand the current infrastructure to keep up with changing technology.

Clinical oncology training in Zimbabwe continues and remains a regional resource. Emphasis on subspecialising seems to be the next natural step in progression. Strengthening of other disciplines, including surgical oncology and medical physics, would be complementary to the training. The programme is an example of a sustainable initiative born out of collaborative partnership and is sustained by local resources. The greater majority of qualified oncologists have remained in Africa.

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