Q & A with founders Dr Ravinder Vohra and Prof Michael Gough
School of Surgery (SoS) is a free, web-based educational resource created by a volunteer group of British surgeons. SoS produces summaries of current literature in general surgery and makes them available, with no log-in or subscription, on their blog page. Following is the dialogue between OnSurg founder Chris Porter and SoS:
First of all, I congratulate you on creating School of Surgery. I wish I’d had such a resource during my training. How did School of Surgery come about?
Prof Gough – Thank you Dr Porter. Surgical training is changing around the globe. For example when I did my residency I trained for over 30,000 hours and performed many more operations than trainees do at the current time. However, the number of hours a newly appointed consultant or attending surgeon will train for has fallen by 80 percent over the last 10 years alone. I am sure you have appreciated a similar shift in training in the US. In addition, to the political drive to increase the numbers of fully trained surgeons, there is a simple realisation that working more than 80 hours per week is not safe for the patients we are treating. Because of this it is vital that every moment is seen as a training opportunity.
Whose idea was it to make your literature summaries available to the world? Please tell us how the concept of SoS germinated.
Dr Vohra– The idea is based on a couple of observations that Prof, myself and another trainee – Dr Jonathan Cowley made. Firstly, prior to taking up a consultant post in the UK, trainees must pass an ‘exit’ examination. This is structured around evidence-based medicine and recently published trials. There were no places on the web that trainees could access this information. Secondly, due to the time it takes to publish a book, the reality is that most are 5 years out-of-date by the time they reach the shelf. In addition, they tend to be expensive. We found other trainees with a passion to keep up-to-date with a range of specialist interests and started writing weekly short synopses on the latest articles in our own speciality and shared it with each other. We quickly realised that others would benefit from this information as we were.
What are the main goals of School of Surgery?
Dr Vohra - Our primary goal is to make an impact on how surgical education is delivered around the globe. Social Media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter have become a major part of everyday life. The majority of us are continuously tuned into such channels trying to stay one step ahead in personal lives. However, they provide powerful networking tools and many companies and news organisations use these platforms to disseminate information efficiently and quickly. We felt that by utilising these platforms we could deliver knowledge to surgeons. Therefore, as peer-reviewed articles and surgical multimedia are published, we prepare free daily synopsis which are uploaded to social media platforms in real-time to keep surgeons around the globe up-to-date. In addition, by collaborating with established organisations such as OnSurg, we aim to act as curators of the phenomenal resources on the web for surgeons around the globe.
Were some of you already users of social media for work/educational purposes?
Dr Vohra– I personally had never used social media for educational purposes, but was struck by the ease of how such platforms could be utilised to spread messages. This was very apparent by the events of the ‘Arab spring’. Many others, like OnSurg were pioneering a revolution in the delivery of surgical education. However, we felt that we had some great content that may be useful to others around the globe.
Who makes up the editorial board?
Dr Vohra – Our editorial board are made up of talented surgeons and trainees who all have a passion for continued surgical education. They have all undertaken post-grad doctoral studies, published peer-reviewed papers and work in top academic units. We are always on the lookout for talented people to work with us.
How is surgical education changing? What forces are prompting change?
Prof Gough – There are multiple forces influencing surgical education. I have already mentioned time constraints, but the underpinning factor is political drivers. Tomorrow’s surgeons well need to be trained to be competent clinicians with both time and financial constraints. We owe it to the people we treat that we always deliver the highest level of care. Surgical institutions such as the Royal Colleges in the UK and the ACS in the US are spending a lot of resources formulating exams and competency-based programmes using devices like virtual reality simulators to increase the exposure. However, ultimately, trainees need to utilise all these opportunities which are available to them. Online resources are free, easy to access and dynamic and these need to be fully utilised.
Where is School of Surgery available and what does it offer?
Dr Vohra - The School of Surgery is available at www.schoolofsurgery.org. It is a free and an unrestricted site, so you don’t even need to register. It is not cluttered with advertising or sponsoring information. In addition, to daily synopsis of the latest published surgical papers, there are links to seminal papers, lectures and operative videos in all the major surgical specialities. We have no political content on the sites.
What future resources are planned?
Dr Vohra - Over the next year we plan to produce weekly expert commentaries on key topics in surgical practice supplemented with a bank of videos/audios of surgical rounds delivered at the centres we are based at. In addition, we are working with leaders from the other major specialties to develop online resources for surgical exams.
I appreciate groups like SoS and individuals like Dr McGonigal (The Trauma Professional’s Blog) and Dr Young (Clinical Brain Training) who make their valuable experiences and knowledge available to the world. What motivates SoS to spend the time and resources for this purpose?
Prof Gough - The same thing that motivates you, Dr McGonigal and Dr Young – the dedication to make sure that the next generation are better trained than we were!
How will online education impact surgical care worldwide?
Dr Vohra - Online education will improve the time it takes to disseminate new knowledge to surgeons on the front-line and will revolutionise the care surgeons deliver to our patients. We have spoken much about training and continued surgical education, but by inference we have been focusing on the Developed world. Regardless of whether you are in the US or the UK or Africa or Asia, the diseases and operative procedures you need to know about are essentially the same. The worldwide web has made it easier than ever to share information around the planet and there should soon will be no difference in the time taken for patients to benefit from a new surgical technique or procedure regardless of where on the planet they are.