Pathology Education Outreach Committee (PEOC)

Promoting Pathology Education and Training in the South Pacific and South-East Asia Region

The RCPA Pathology Outreach Education Committee (PEOC) is focused on promoting pathology education and training in the South Pacific and South-East Asia. While many pathologists generously assist with pathology service delivery or clinical capacity building in developing communities, the PEOC is involved in training and education.

The PEOC oversees the RCPA contribution to development of pathology education and training in countries such as Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Vanuatu, Western Samoa, Tonga, the Solomon Islands, and other Pacific and South East Asian nations.

Activities co-ordinated via the PEOC are undertaken by Fellows on a voluntary or self-funded basis. We couldn't manage without our volunteer Fellows. Through education and training, our pathology volunteers help regional pathologists and trainees improve the lives of the people they service and make their communities more supportive, connected and inclusive. The RCPA is grateful to our many volunteers for the huge contributions they make in promoting Pathology in the region.

We assist in teaching and examination of the Pathology Postgraduate Diploma and Masters Program at the Fiji National University (FNU) in Suva. Fellows have been involved from the development of this Program from its inception all the way to obtaining University Senate approval.

Initially designed for the Fijian trainees, the program is now open to trainees from other regional countries. The success of the program depends on RCPA Fellows travelling to Fiji to deliver the teaching of the program. We are always looking for Fellows who wish to participate in the teaching of the program.

Although a former colony of Australia and only 5km from its closest point, PNG has major challenges, especially in healthcare (in some areas among the worst in the world).

Fellows assist in teaching and as external examiners at the University of Papua New Guinea. We also undertake teleconferenced microbiology tutorials and have major input into Infectious disease and microbiology projects.

We need more Fellows to participate in teaching and assist in external examinations. The PNG College of Pathology was established in 2015 and have expressed interest in collaborating with the RCPA.

Work to build local microbiology laboratory capacity continues. Training and infection control workshops are on-going. Antibiotic workshops for pharmacists have been held and hospital wide point prevalence survey conducted. We continue to work with their scientists to improve skills, with a strong focus on quality control.

A new Pacific Region Infectious Disease Association has been formed to focus on all aspects of infectious disease management - microbiology laboratory capacity building, management of infections, antimicrobial resistance and infection control.

Vanuatu recently appointed its first fully qualified local pathologist. Currently, Vanuatu has a small laboratory in Port Vila that undertakes haematology and histopathology. Surgical specimens were previously sent to the Gold Coast Hospital in Australia due to lack of funding, and this has now stopped. The histopathology laboratory needs upgrading to make it fully functional.

Like Vanuatu, Samoa and other South Pacific nations face similar problems. Their pathology laboratory services are under-resourced. Many countries, eg Solomon Islands, and Vanuatu, have only one consultant pathologist, whilst others like Samoa and Tonga have senior registrars and only intermittent consultant support. Other countries like Kiribati and Tuvalu others have no trained medical pathologists at all and send all their specimens to Australia.

Working as a lone pathologist in such settings can be extremely demanding, since pathologists often need a colleague to ask for second opinions on difficult cases, and cover leaves of absence. Retaining a pathologist in these conditions is often difficult, and some trained local pathologists end up leaving their countries or moving into administration or other specialties.

RCPA Fellows deliver transfusion medicine training courses in Vietnam. These courses are usually held in two different locations with two days in each location and each session is attended by more than 100 participants.

The focus here is on Microbiology, Haematology, Transfusion and Anatomical Pathology laboratory capacity building. Support is provided by the Flinders Overseas Health Group.

We are helping to establish a new Cerebrospinal Fluid and Blood Culture service for the National Laboratory. A Scientist mentorship/exchange program is being undertaken from Darwin hospital. The activities are supported by the Menzies School of Health Research ‘Stronger Systems for Health Security Program’.

The focus is on microbiology laboratory capacity building.

We assist in the teaching of microbiology laboratory staff & Antimicrobial Stewardship at the Jigme Dorji Wangchuck National Referral Hospital in Thimphu.

Other RCPA Initiatives

The RCPA has established a grant called the RCPA Foundation Developing Communities Fellowship. The purpose of the funding is to assist College Fellows and Trainees in advancing and promoting Pathology education, training and local capacity building in developing countries in the region. Funding of the Fellowship has been made possible through voluntary donations from Fellows and Trainees.

The RCPA also provides sponsorship for two regional pathologists/trainees to attend our Annual Scientific Meeting Pathology Update.

In the last two years, the RCPA successfully applied for DFAT funding under the Australia Awards Fellowships program and hosted Fiji and other regional trainees for up to three months laboratory attachments in Australia.

RCPA Visiting Lectureship (To Overseas) provides education to our South East Asian Fellows and Trainees and allows an exchange of knowledge, skills and practices in pathology in order to assist in their continual professional development.

Online classes, continuous trainee monitoring and support are available in selected disciplines to trainees.

Access to Online Education Materials

RCPA’s Affiliate Trainee Membership category which allows regional trainees to access its Educational Portal at a nominal fee.

The Australasian Association of Clinical Biochemists (AACB) provides its on-line educational materials to regional pathologists/trainees at a discounted rate.

The Central Queensland University offers Fiji Registrars ‘Adjunct’ academics to allow them to access CQU’s on-line teaching resources.

Other Training Blogs for Registrars

Microbiology and Infectious Diseases postgraduate teaching blog disseminates teaching materials and discusses instructive topics, journal articles, cases about microbiology, infectious diseases, infection control and antimicrobial stewardship. It has been primarily designed with post-graduates in mind.

Hunter Pathology Biochemistry training blog aims to capture a range of practical clinical biochem case discussions.

How you can help?

  • We are continuously looking for funds to support our activities in the region. You can generously donate at RCPA Foundation Developing Communities Fellowship.
  • Undertake face to face pathology teaching in Fiji and PNG (even if only passing through these countries for a short time). Trainees also need mentoring, supervision and assistance in laboratory capacity building.
  • Provide on-line distance teaching.
  • Provide pathology teaching resources, such as textbooks and equipment, as there is a shortage of such resources in these countries.
  • Hosting regional pathologists and trainees for laboratory attachments in Australia and New Zealand.

Funding

Funding may be available through DFAT’s Pacific Islands Program (PIP) administered by the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons. Currently, funding is only available for activities in Fiji, Samoa, Vanuatu and Papua New Guinea. Applications must be submitted in consultation with the respective country contacts.

How do I get more information? To find out more about current volunteer opportunities or to apply for an opportunity, please contact: Pathology Education Outreach Committe's email: peoc@rcpa.edu.au

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06-May-2019
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