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Pediatric cardiology conference part of global effort

Image with caption: Benjamin Acheampong, MD

Benjamin Acheampong, MD

A virtual education effort offered in April was the latest successful effort from the UNMC Pediatric Residency Global Health Track, which was founded in 2014 with a mission to develop partnerships aimed at addressing global health equity in children in the U.S. and abroad.

The program, which has multiple partners, recently worked with Benjamin Acheampong, MD, an assistant professor in the UNMC Division of Pediatric Cardiology, to create a three-day virtual conference that offered discussion and instructions on pediatric cardiological interventions for non-cardiologists working in low-resource international settings.

"Over the years, we have developed a robust program with pediatric faculty global health champions who collaborate with partners across the globe," said Shirley Delair, MD, director of the global health track and associate dean for DEI with the UNMC College of Medicine. "Though the COVID-19 pandemic has affected international activities, it has also provided an opportunity to leverage a virtual platform to continue our educational and capacity building mission. Dr. Acheampong’s desire to provide education in Ghana gave us an opportunity to reach out to a new cohort of physicians."

Originally from Ghana himself, Dr. Acheampong is very much aware of the lack of pediatric cardiology services in the country.

In 2018, he traveled to Ghana to train physicians on handheld ultrasound machines and addressing heart problems in children with HIV.

"I thought, ‘How can we package this information so it will be beneficial to many family care providers?’" he said.

The goal, Dr. Acheampong said, was to "empower physicians in remote places, many in poor locations with limited resources, to be able to use this information for patient care."

Dr. Delair saw the opportunity to expand the health track’s impact.

"When building a new country partnership, we usually start with an in-country visit and needs assessment to help structure a new collaboration," Dr. Delair said, "But with the COVID-19 pandemic, we could not proceed as usual. When working in global health, we often need to adapt and adjust quickly, so the idea of a virtual educational effort was born."

Under the content-expert guidance of Dr. Acheampong, the three-day virtual conference offered discussion and instructions on pediatric cardiological interventions for non-cardiologists working in low-resource international settings.

Participants included physicians from Ghana, Germany, Ecuador, Belize, Nigeria and the United States. Dr. Acheampong and his colleagues led the participants through a variety of cardiology-related topics, including:

  • Infections of the Heart, including Myocarditis, Pericarditis and Endocarditis (led by Lourdes Eguiguren, MD, UNMC Division of Pediatric Infectious Diseases) 
  • Updates on Rheumatic Fever (Shirley Delair, MD, division chief, pediatric infectious diseases)
  • Pediatric Cardiac Murmurs, Management of Left to Right Shunts: Ventricular Septal Defects (VSD), Atrial Septal Defect (ASD), and Patent Ductus Arteriosus (PDA), Management of Patients with Tetralogy of Fallot, Management of Acute and Chronic Heart Failure (Dr. Acheampong)
  • Management of Shock (Santosh Kaipa, MD, division of pediatric critical care)

Reaction to the event was positive, Dr. Acheampong said, leading him and his collaborators to explore making the conference an annual event.

"Based on the feedback we got, our approach going forward will be to include presenters ‘on the ground,’" he said, adding that he is exploring a possible collaboration with the Pediatric Society of Ghana. "We will work with local presenters to determine topics of interest."

"My colleagues in the department were very helpful in previewing the material so it was understandable to the non-specialist," he said.

Going forward, the goal is to explore other specialties and to work with local partners who can identify medical education needs for their regions, as well as provide a platform for learning and teaching by UNMC and Children's Hospital & Medical Center residents and fellows who are interested in global health.

"We have something to learn from them -- how they manage their patients in resource-limited settings and achieve outcomes in difficult environments," Dr. Acheampong said. "And we have something to share with them -- cutting-edge information, delivered in a way that they can distill and use it to benefit their patients."

Dr. Acheampong also thanked the UNMC Department of Continuing Education for hosting the event and acknowledged the support and mentorship of Dr. Delair, who also is the associate dean of DEI for the UNMC College of Medicine, and Amy Rezac-Elgohary, Pediatric Global Health Research and Education Programs manager, for coordinating the activities, as well as the support of UNMC and Children’s Hospital & Medical Center.

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