Sun | Sep 27, 2020

Jamaican surgeons urged to become socially accountable

Published:Monday | May 20, 2019 | 12:17 AMCorey Robinson/Staff Reporter
Dr Tomlin Paul, dean of the Faculty of Medical Science at The University of the West Indies.
Dr Tomlin Paul, dean of the Faculty of Medical Science at The University of the West Indies.

Jamaican surgeons were yesterday urged to be more socially accountable and to embrace new technology in order to support the continued evolution of their profession.

The directive was made by senior surgeons at the 61st Annual Clinical Conference, which was mounted by the Association of Surgeons in Jamaica at The Jamaica Pegasus hotel in New Kingston on the weekend.

Dr. Tomlin Paul, dean of the Faculty of Medical Science at The University of the West Indies (UWI), said that as part their efforts to become more socially accountable, local surgeons must strive to maintain their relevance, quality and efficiency, and also forge meaningful partnerships with other sectors of the society.

“I think that is a good sort of acid test of what social accountability looks like and feels like. Do we have those things in our programmes, in our outreach, and in our service? Are we thinking about those issues?” he asked, citing examples where surgeons have openly taken stances against issues, such as gun control in the United States.

Surgeons, he said, must be advocates against social concerns such as poor access to healthcare and inordinately long waiting times, which disproportionately affect certain segments of the local population.

He said there are very few studies on the level of social accountability among surgeons globally, but that the UWI has been working on measures aimed at teaching and evaluating social accountability locally.


He pointed to articles where members of the ASJ have spoken out publicly about the lack of respect shown to some pregnant mothers; the quality of care of some patients; and the dangers of diagnosis made by some health professionals at the island’s public hospitals.

“That’s advocacy; getting the voice out there and let the people hear,” he said.

“So that is social accountability, and those are the kinds of things that we see happening, and we want to see more of that as we move forward,” he added, pointing to surgical outreach and rural care as one of the areas where he would like to see Jamaican surgeons become more socially responsible.

Meanwhile, distinguished general surgeon at UWI, Professor Michael McFarlane, who gave the 31st Annual Sir Harry Annamunthodo Memorial Lecture, said technology is opening new frontiers in medical science and that local practitioners should embrace these technologies more.

Among the technological advancements he pointed to were medical robots, artificial intelligence, nanotechnology equipment and 3D printing.

“The old days are gone; these are here to stay. The future of surgery is going to be smart,” he said, adding that such developments can no longer be regarded as disruptive technology,” he said.

He continued: “Definitely, the most obvious change is the move away from large incisions to small incisions and the dawn of minimal invasive surgery. Surgeons have begun to discard previously taught dogmas.”

“We as members of this surgical society must choose to move in a new direction; the direction of innovative surgery, which is faster, more efficient,” he said.