Royal College’s New Program for Overseas Development Selects Office of Global Surgery for its First Grants

30 September 2020

Congratulations to Dr. André Isaac on being one of the first recipients of The Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada’s new overseas development program. The University of Alberta’s Innovating Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery in Western Kenya was one of only eight projects across Canada to be selected. The grant is $65,000

Royal College CEO Dr. Susan Moffat-Bruce says the project is an “incredible, diverse and important effort.”

Dr. Isaac says, “It is such an honour to receive this grant from the Royal College. This funding will allow us to improve access to head and neck surgical care for thousands of people living in Kenya in a sustainable way.”

The initiative is under the Department of Surgery’s Office of Global Surgery (OGS), which helps improve health profession education and local capacity in under-serviced communities.

OGS leads the partnership between the University of Alberta and the Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital (MTRH) in Eldoret, Kenya, which aims to improve access to Otolaryngology – Head and Neck surgical care for more than 15 million people in the region.

MTRH is one of only two public tertiary referral hospitals in Kenya; but it is underequipped in personnel, training, resources, time and infrastructure. So, for many surgical procedures that are considered routine in Canada, MTRH must either refer patients out of the region or leave patients undertreated. The project aims to help bridge the gap.


Developing sustainable practices

“Our goal is for MTRH to manage its own surgical oncology for head and neck cancer, advanced airway disease and surgery, and advanced endoscopic ear disease within a few years,” said Dr. Isaac, a pediatric otolaryngologist, member of the University of Alberta’s Office of Global Surgery and one of the project leads.

He explained that the project’s fundamental value is its plan to equip MTRH surgeons and physicians with sustainable procedures and practices. One major barrier to effective head and neck surgery in low-resource countries is the discipline’s high reliance on advanced technology. “Our solutions are designed to circumvent this problem, which means the surgeons will be able to work sustainably,” Dr. Isaac said.

Reimagining what is possible

As one example, Dr. Isaac’s team will work towards replacing expensive microscopic ear surgery with affordable endoscopic ear surgery. “It’s about reimagining, from the ground up, what is possible and putting those practices in place,” he said.

Other priorities include a formalized airway course, improving pathology reporting and laying the groundwork for a residency training program.

Dr. Isaac’s team is seeking volunteers. The greatest need is for an anesthesiologist who can commit to a one-week trip to Kenya once a year, usually in October. The team is also looking for physician assistants and nurse practitioners to help run clinics, and triage and treat patients. To participate, please contact Dr. Isaac at