Continued medical education in the most challenging times

Published March 1, 2021, 1:24 PM

by Len Amadora

The COVID-19 pandemic crept into everyone’s lives like a thief in the night.  With health and quarantine protocols placed to prevent the spread of the virus, most if not all, industries and sectors came to a crippling halt.  Everyone had to drastically adapt to the times in order to survive.  In education specifically, digital transformation was inevitable.   

Since the beginning of the pandemic, it was the healthcare providers who received most of the pressure physically, mentally and emotionally.  Being exposed to those who are infected made them more vulnerable that is why full support and appreciation were given to them.  Truly, this pandemic made us appreciate the importance and value of medical education. 

Johnson & Johnson, has always been committed to caring and putting people first. Since its inception in 1886, founded by brothers James and Edward, both had always had the drive to advance healthcare innovation.  In its 133-year history, its innate concern for the health of humanity has always been its priority. 

At present undeniably, the desire continues on as Johnson & Johnson Philippines joins forces with the Philippine Obstetrical and Gynecological Society (POGS-NCR) and the Philippine Society of General Surgeons (PSGS Metro Manila and Central Luzon Chapters) and launched the country’s first Online Learning Continuum on Basic Surgical Skills Training to enable healthcare professionals continue their medical education.  

Designed to provide continued learning for first to third-year PSGS residents, the Johnson & Johnson Institute’s Surgical Skills Training program will be presented on an online digital format facilitated by seasoned proctors and surgeons.  The curriculum will be delivered through blended learning that will cover modular and evidence-based sessions and “virtual hands-on training”.  Dr. Erwin Benedicto, Head of Medical Affairs, Johnson & Johnson Philippines, Inc. discussed briefly with MB TechNews what this virtual medical educational platform is all about.

“We launched this project together with the goal of continuing education for first year to third year surgical resident doctors during this time when physical classes are limited. As a company, we at J&J always strive to care for and support our patients, doctors, and other stakeholders. Through this partnership with POGS-NCR and PSGS MMC & Central Luzon, we hope to lend our expertise and extend our resources to those who are in the process of furthering their knowledge in their chosen medical fields.” 

Johnson & Johnson have been actively working on numerous projects with POGS and PSGS even before the pandemic.  The program, which is first of its kind in both the Philippines and Southeast Asia, is the group’s “collaborative response to address the gaps in continuing surgical resident doctors’ learning, given the physical distancing limitations brought on by the pandemic”, Dr. Benedicto added.  With health protocols and restrictions in place, to efficiently move forward and avoid further delay in the students’ graduation and residency program, the institution considered hybrid or the blended learning approach. 

According to Dr. Benedicto, the surgical skills training is open for resident doctors who are in their 1st – 3rd year in General Surgery, and; those who are in their 1st – 4th year of OB GYN residency program.  Dr.  Benedicto explained, “We’ve narrowed it down to these two fields of specialization given that they are the ones who will be practicing skin and fascia closures, accordingly.”  He further expounded, “The purpose of the virtual training is really to give surgical residents an avenue to enhance their practical skills in surgery leading up to graduation.

Students enrolled in the program will be trained by specialists in General Surgery and Obstetrician-Gynecology (OB-GYN) and training officers in the different hospitals they have partnered with.  Students will be graded according to their performance based on test results from the modules and from the evaluation on their skill set performance during the workshop.  Once modules are completed, students will then be issued certificates that will earn them points to graduate from their residency program.

So how is the surgical skills training done?  Dr.  Benedicto tells us, All modules can be accessed by enrolled students / residents on the J&J Institute platform — this is an online learning website that was developed by our global J&J Teams and is populated with modules on several topics around healthcare, all of which are in our areas of expertise as a company. The surgical skills training is one of our localized efforts. In complementing the online modules / lectures, we will be providing students with materials that they would need in practicing their skills, including the following: knot-tying board, skin pads – for proper skin closure technique, fascia abdominal trainer, surgical instruments, sutures.  The hands-on training would then be hosted on Zoom wherein the practical tests and lectures are taught by faculty members from the POGS-NCR and PSGS organizations.”  Dr. Benedicto added, “Aligned with the materials that we will provide, these skills would include basic surgical skills, proper knot-tying, suturing (stitching up a wound or incision), skin closure, and fascia closure (proper closure of the inner layers of the abdomen after a major surgery involving an incision on the abdomen), among others.”

There are 33 hospitals under the PSGS-Metro Manila Chapter that are participating in the training.  Among the 33 are UST Hospital, FEU – Nicanor Reyes Medical Foundation Medical Center, St. Luke’s Medical Center, UERM Memorial Hospital, and others.  For the PSGS – Luzon Chapter, the list of 12 hospitals engaged in the training include Jose B. Lingad, Tarlac Provincial Hospital, Bataan General Hospital, and others.  Hospitals such as the Philippine General Hospital, Capitol Medical Center, Delos Santos Med Center, FEU NRMF, Veterans Memorial Medical Center, Fatima Univ. Med Center, St. Lukes Med, Quirino Med, and others that are under POGS-NCR (42 hospitals) are also taking part in this training.

Participated by a total of 87 hospitals, Johnson & Johnson Institute’s Surgical Skills Training Program was set in motion last October and will run until December 2021. 

Looking ahead, the institution is hoping to expand its reach to more hospitals and conduct simultaneous runs with the organizations they have partnered with. Whatever the COVID-19 pandemic brings, the institute will continue to find ways to support their partner-surgeons, patients and students even after the program.