It is my pleasure to provide the Chairman’s report on The Foundation for International Education in Neurological Surgery (FIENS). FIENS is now entering its 54th year as the premier institution for fostering global neurosurgical care worldwide through education, developing self-sustaining programs of neurosurgical care in areas where none existed before. As such, the organization supports volunteers from high-income countries, such as the United States, Canada, Europe, but also Africa, Asia, and the Americas, to volunteer in the education of programs in low- and middle-income countries and regions. However, its services go far beyond that, aiming to develop self-sustaining programs of care that enhance the entire health system of a region. To do this, we have partnered with multiple institutions to develop international curricula for training programs, which can be certified in low- and middle-income regions of the world. We work to find the equipment, supplies, and mentoring to allow the development of such programs until they become self-sustaining, further dedicated to the post-graduate education of these individuals.
The past year has been extremely successful as we have slowly, but progressively emerged from COVID-19. FIENS has engaged with Ohana One to provide administrative support and organization, greatly increasing its communication skills, its ability to keep track of its worldwide fellows and to organize education, both online and in-person. A major objective of the past few years has been the FIENS fellowships, which come in two kinds. The Bassett Fellows provide funding for trainees late in their training period to do finishing in a developed program in high-income countries. This is a period of three months of intensive training, particularly in surgical techniques, administration, or research, to allow the building of an academic program in their home country. The second fellowship, The Clack Fellows, supply necessary financial support for a person from an area with little or no neurosurgical care who has obtained their neurosurgical training and will return to that area of need but lacks funding to complete their training. These fellowships have been highly successful, attracting a great deal of interest and effectively finishing outstanding neurosurgical trainees in areas of need. Furthermore, because of the support of the training programs and its equipment, supplies, and teachers, there is an infrastructure that encourages them to continue to practice in their home countries. Communication has been greatly increased, including our virtual visiting professor program. We utilize international neurosurgical leaders as visiting professors who, working with a young neurosurgical trainee in a low or middle-income country, provide a virtual visiting professor experience for our fellows worldwide. This includes back-and-forth discussions of cases, presentations on pertinent aspects of neurosurgical care, and the development of our young trainees as mentors.
We have also revised the boot camp program, with a very successful boot camp in Da Nang, as we begin to work on strategies to increase training regionally throughout the entire world. Therefore, programs in Southeast Asia and Southcentral South America are being fostered as educational hubs for the surrounding region, following a successful model utilized in Africa. Areas of the greatest emphasis in the next year will include developing programs in West Sub-Saharan Africa and Central Asia and increasing volunteers in the field. We have started surveying the needs in West Africa to try to examine the best placement for training programs. In the curriculum focus, a new online curriculum is being developed for South America, and we enjoy very active collaboration with numerous neurosurgical societies worldwide. This will allow vibrant two-way communication on the issues, serving as a forum for experts in global health to explain their worldwide experiences. This two-way communication has been invaluable in focusing our efforts on leadership, excellence, inclusiveness, and education. Education is the key driver of change in the worldwide scope of global neurosurgery by identifying areas of need, developing programs to become self-sustaining there, and leveraging partnerships to advance the quality of neurosurgical patient care globally.
We thank you for your support, trust, effort, and skill in helping us meet the needs of neurosurgical patients worldwide.
Robert J. Dempsey, MD
Chairman and Manucher J. Javid Professor of Neurological Surgery
Department of Neurological Surgery, University of Wisconsin SMPHChairman, Foundation for International Education in Neurological Surgery