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Bass Connections Team Improves Surgical Outcomes in Uganda

Student-driven research helps reduce post-op infections

There are 25 neurosurgeons at Duke Hospital, but the entire country of Uganda has fewer than half that number.

Professor of Neurosurgery Michael Haglund is committed to helping Uganda increase its neurosurgical capacity. He leads Duke Global Neurosurgery and Neurology, a division that collaborates with Mulago National Referral Hospital and Makerere University in Uganda.

Along with training more neurosurgeons, the partnership seeks to improve patient outcomes after surgery. In 2016, a Bass Connections team began focusing on three key issues in Mulago’s neurosurgery ward: medication management, patient-family education and infection control.

Led by Haglund and Assistant Professor in Neurosurgery Anthony Fuller, the team has made steady progress on these key goals. It has increased patients’ and caretakers’ understanding of their medications, developed educational materials to build health literacy skills, deployed hand sanitizer stations and lowered the infection rate by 15-20%.

This experience has been transformative for many Duke students. Over the past four years, participants included 16 undergraduates – many of whom participated for multiple years – as well as four medical students and one master’s student. Some have continued their involvement through follow-on research and senior theses as well as coauthored manuscripts; some recent graduates are now bringing this valuable experience to medical school.

Haglund and Fuller are also involved in another Bass Connections team in partnership with Makerere University. Led by Deborah Attix, the team carried out a mixed method study on the needs of primary healthcare providers who treat epilepsy. Findings will inform efforts to design educational programs with the goal of improving epilepsy treatment in Uganda.

[Editor's Note: DIBS administers the Bass Connections Brain & Society Theme. Thanks to Bass Connections for the story and art!]