QUESTION | What are the proposed goals of the International Affairs Committee?
Our main goal is to improve the delivery of pediatric neurological care in developing countries and in areas in need of such services. We’re trying to increase the awareness and understanding of neurological disorders and assist the development of adequate clinical programs to support the practice of pediatric neurology in countries lacking proper services.
QUESTION | What objectives will the International Committee use to achieve its goals?
At the CNS meeting in Washington DC we outlined short-term, medium-term, and long-term objectives. Our short-term objectives are to organize scientific symposia in countries and regions lacking appropriate resources for the care of children afflicted with neurological disorders and to gather data regarding demographics, local needs and possibilities of cooperation between hosting countries and the CNS and International Child Neurology Association (ICNA). Our medium-term objectives are to develop workshops in specific areas of pediatric neurology, such as EEG and management of spasticity, that can be tailored to local needs and resources of individual countries. We are also aiming to create webinars and web – courses in different languages, which can be easily accessed by English and non-English speaking physicians. This is planned in cooperation with the ICNA. Our long-term objective is to facilitate relationships between developing countries and specific institutions in the Unites States. We’re hoping to actively promote the process whereby institutions in the USA that have the infrastructure and commitment to do so can help physicians in developing countries through actions such as development of telemedicine, creation of local training modules, and promotion of international collaborative research.
QUESTION | Is the work of the CNS International Affairs Committee coordinated with the International Child Neurology Association?
Definitely. ICNA has been crucial in developing these projects. Dr. Harry Chugani, an active member of our committee and former president of ICNA, was instrumental in linking our committee with ICNA. We are mutually involved in the organization of international meetings in developing countries. The ICNA website has resources which can be utilized for pediatric neurologists in different countries, and the CNS is planning to assist with these projects. CNS president, Dr. Kenneth Mack, is fully supportive of our endeavors and encourages cooperation with ICNA. I think this is an exciting time, as we are trying to unify efforts to create a stronger and more effective working task force. I also want to mention that our previous chair, Dr. Agustin Legido, established the basis for this international framework and planned the first international symposium.
QUESTION | What have been the main activities of the International Affairs Committee over the past year?
We organized a meeting in Bolivia, one of the poorest countries in South America, with more than 200 participants, and most recently, the first Central American CNS-ICNA Child Neurology Symposium, hosted by the National University of Honduras (UNAH) with the involvement of 450 participants.
QUESTION | What is the basis that the International Affairs Committee uses for choosing the Bernard D’Souza International Fellowship Award?
The applicant has to be trained in a developing country and needs to practice child neurology in an academic environment. The clinical and academic accomplishments of each participant are taken into consideration, in addition to the impact that each candidate has in the delivery of neurological care in in their specific country. Every applicant should also be prepared to present a scientific poster.
QUESTION | Who won the award in 2015, and what were the activities of that recipient?
Dr. Edward Kija from Tanzania was the 2015 D’Souza award recipient. Dr. Kija finished his training at the College of Medicine in South Africa. He is the only pediatric neurologist in the region, which has a population of 47.5 million inhabitants. As part of the award, Dr. Kija was invited to the CNS meeting in Washington, where he presented his work in transcranial Doppler ultrasonography and MRI findings in children with sickle cell anemia seen in the national hospital in Tanzania. Dr. Kija also spent one month at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, focusing on various aspects of child neurology and EEG interpretation. He is planning to develop the first pediatric EEG lab in Tanzania, with support of the International Committee.
QUESTION | What are the main challenges that the committee faces, as it attempts to spread the discipline of child neurology in the international arena?
- There are economic limitations. At the present time we count on the support of the CNS and ICNA for our current projects. This allows us to cover travel expenses, while the hosting country provides housing. As we continue to expand our outreach, the international committee may need more support from our members.
- The cultural and socio-political differences in every country could potentially interfere with mutual cooperation. As a committee, we need to be very sensitive to these differences.
- There is a need to identify local leaders, willing to invest time and effort to help in the organization of regional meetings.
- Finally, we need to ensure that our efforts reach the children that are lacking proper neurological care in developing countries, which is our main goal.
QUESTION | What does the International Affairs Committee have planned for 2016?
We are helping to organize two international meetings. These include the Caribbean Child Neurology Meeting, scheduled for March 2016 in Barbados, and the Zimbabwe CNS-ICNA meeting, to be held in September 2016. In addition, we are organizing a workshop on EEG interpretation in coordination with establishment of an EEG laboratory in Tanzania. In this activity, we plan to also involve Kenya and Uganda.
QUESTION | How can interested members of the CNS become more informed and involved in international affairs?
I am proposing the creation of an international special interest group (SIG) at the CNS meeting. This will provide all institutions and individual physicians involved in international missions with an opportunity to join our activities and share experiences. In addition, the committee is planning to create a data base of the various medical missions and projects between specific institutions or medical groups in the USA and developing countries. Two men caption: International Affairs Committee member Ken Holden (l) and Chair, Jorge Vidaurre (r); have been actively involved in several Central and South American projects and conferences, cultivating invaluable relationships with child neurologists to the south. Two men award caption: Dr. Edward Kija received a plaque and congratulations as the 2015 Bernard D’Souza Fellowship Awardee from CNS International Affairs Chair, Dr. Jorge Vidaurre.