Viraj Pandit, MD, came to the University of Arizona from Pune, India, to learn more about trauma surgery and research through the UA Department of Surgery International Research Fellowship Program.
The fellowship – one of a handful of its kind in the United States – has drawn 10 international scholars since June 2011. Fellows have journeyed from Syria, Pakistan, India, Iran, South Korea and Taiwan to participate in research that has the potential to change the standard of trauma care and save more lives.
“It’s a great learning experience,” said Dr. Pandit, one of six physicians from around the globe taking part in the UA program. “I would like to take the things I have learned here, start a trauma center and introduce the concept of research back home.” He said in India, the understanding of trauma is “still evolving.”
“Trauma care is underdeveloped in most other countries,” said Bellal Joseph, MD, International Research Fellowship program director. “Research in many countries is not as robust or developed as it is here. Sometimes the simplest ideas that we take for granted here can be taken back to their country and make a difference.”
The fellowship can serve as a gateway for talented international scholars to practice medicine in the United States. “They are some of the top scholars from around the world,” said Dr. Joseph, who also serves as assistant professor of surgery and medical director of the Southern Arizona Telemedicine and Telepresence Program.
“We don’t just practice trauma at the UA – we define how trauma is changing,” said Dr. Joseph, “Our biggest push is to take ideas that have been the standard of care for 15 or 20 years and actually see if they really are the best way to do things.
“We started with one fellow and one or two research projects. We now are working on more than 60 projects. There is a lot of mentorship that goes into this from all of the trauma staff,” Dr. Joseph said. The fellowship lasts one to two years.
Fellows are involved in studies that are setting the standard in trauma surgery, including:
• Determining whether a second brain scan following brain trauma – which increases exposure to radiation – is valuable in all cases.
• Investigating the benefit of antiplatelet therapy in traumatic brain injury.
• Assessing frailty status in older trauma patients to help determine the best course of treatment.
• Studying the use of a blood pressure cuff in patients with traumatic brain injury or sepsis to determine whether impacting blood flow at the arm minimizes damage to other parts of the body.
Dr. Pandit presented his research at the American College of Surgeons Clinical Congress 2013 in Washington, D.C., in October, and won an Excellence in Research Award for his work in frailty assessment.
In addition to learning about medicine in the United States, the trauma team teaches the fellows about life in America, Dr. Joseph said. “They become family. A lifelong relationship forms.”
There is no funding for the fellowship and fellows are unpaid. The trauma division is seeking grants to fund the program.
“I think the fact that these trained surgeons leave their homes to come here to spend a year with us speaks volumes about our reputation and status,” Dr. Joseph said. “They leave everything they know for the opportunity to learn from us here at the University of Arizona.”
Current international research fellows:
• Viraj Pandit, MD – India
• Bardiya Zangbar Sabegh, MD – Iran
• Ammar Hashmi, MD – Pakistan
• Mazhar Khalil, MD – Pakistan
• Sung Youl Hung, MD – Korea
• Sunny Wanwan, MD – Taiwan
Physicians who completed the fellowship are:
• Moutamn Sadoun, MD – Syria (currently a clinical fellow in the UA Department of Surgery)
• Hassan Aziz, MD – Pakistan (currently a general surgery resident in the UA Department of Surgery)
• Ma Dae Sung, MD – Korea
• Jiyoung Jang, MD – Korea