Friday, May 7, 2010

A World Class Physician Serving in Angola

The CEML Hospital Medical Director, Dr. Steve Foster, just received a distinguished award from the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada.  This award, given in evaluation by a consortium of honored physician-peers in Canada, exemplifies one of the highest honors of  the North American medical field.

The Teasdale-Corti Humanitarian Award, acknowledges and celebrates Canadian physicians who, while providing health care or emergency medical services, go beyond the accepted norms of routine practice, which may include exposure to personal risk. The recipient's actions exemplify altruism and integrity, courage and perseverance in the alleviation of human suffering.

Below is the Award biography story of Dr. Foster:

Stephen Foster, MD, FRCSC, has devoted his life to improving health care in Angola.
Even when armoured plates had to be installed under his car, the 2010 Royal College Teasdale-Corti Humanitarian Award winner continued providing high-quality medical treatment in a country ravaged by more than 27 years of civil war.

“Despite the apparent dangers, I’ve had more fun here than I would have had anywhere else,” Dr. Foster said. “The average general surgeon in Canada does five or six different types of operations. I do more than 100 procedures, 1,400 times in any given year.”

Dr. Foster, 60, was born in Brantford, Ont., but spent most his childhood living in Zambia, where his father, Robert Foster, MD, worked as a missionary surgeon. In 1971, the young student had just completed his second year of medicine at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ont., when he decided to spend the summer working at a central Angola clinic.

“This is where I first fell in love with surgery,” Dr. Foster said. “It opened my eyes to the experiences and rewards that are possible in medicine.”

Dr. Foster later completed his general surgical training through the University of Toronto’s Gallie Course. But after entertaining offers from hospitals throughout southern Ontario, he returned to Angola, driven by the desire “to not turn my back on everything I’d seen and could do to help.” He has since founded surgical units
in numerous hospitals, mentored dozens of nurses and surgeons, and helped design a postgraduate medical education training program.

When there were no doctors available to run a hospital in Kalukembe, a rural town in southwest Angola, Dr. Foster trained nursing staff. The hospital, which serves a population of 500,000, now provides the only medical care for the region, handling all surgical emergencies, said Michael Bentley-Taylor, MD, FRCPC, senior cardiologist at the Toronto East General Hospital and a longtime volunteer with Dr. Foster in Angola.

“The nurses do everything, from 250 C-sections a year to putting you into traction, including putting the pin into your tibia,” said Dr. Bentley-Taylor, who travels to Angola twice each year. “It is a real paramedic hospital. This is a man of vision.”

Angola is roughly the size of Ontario and has a population of more than 18 million. All but one of the 12 mission hospitals in the southern region were destroyed during the prolonged civil war, which lasted from the country’s 1975 independence from Portugal until eight years ago. More than 500,000 Angolans died in the conflict.

Providing treatment in war and post-conflict environments has been difficult, Dr. Foster said. The health infrastructure, already inadequate in 1975, deteriorated rapidly during the civil war, while the education and family systems also struggled. This made it harder to deliver timely, effective treatment, as well as teach proper methods and techniques to residents. (From Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons Award site)

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