CAANS Continental Society Report
CAANS has only been in existence since 2012. Prior to this, the African Continent’s neurosurgeons were represented by an umbrella neuroscience organization, PAANS, the Pan African Association of Neurological Sciences, which was launched in Nairobi Kenya in 1972.
For over 30 years PAANS organized biannual meetings to bring together the limited number of neurologists and neurosurgeons on the Continent, adopting both French and English as its official languages, and bringing the Francophone and Anglophone speaking clinicians together to exchange experience and training systems (Abdeslam El Khamlichi 2019, Emerging Neurosurgery in Africa, pg 61-62). PAANS represented African Neurosurgeons at the WFNS for 40 years to come. As the numbers and needs of neurosurgeons expanded, the neurosurgeons desired to have a dedicated neurosurgical Society to represent their growing needs and ambitions. PAANS resisted this initiative, not allowing other Neurosurgical Societies to represent Africa. (Abdeslam El Khamlichi 2019, Emerging Neurosurgery in Africa, pg 61-62). The two Societies (ANSA – Association of Neurological Surgeons of Africa, and AFNS – African Federation of Neurological Surgeons) finally resolved to form the Continental Association of African Neurosurgical Societies at a well-attended meeting, arranged during a Neurosurgical Symposium organized in collaboration with Prof Madjid Samii, in Nairobi on 27- 28th January 2012. This landmark meeting recognized the dire need for a dedicated Continental Society, and, with advice from Prof Samii, named the new organisation CAANS.
This led very quickly to the recognition of CAANS by the WFNS - replacing the multispecialty Association, PAANS, as the Continental Association.
From the time of its inception to date, CAANS has continued to grow in stature and reputation. For the first time in its history, African Neurosurgeons have regularly held very well attended Neurosurgical Congresses, attended by well over 400 African Neurosurgeons (almost 30-50 % of the continents neurosurgeons). The first Congress in Algiers in 2014, followed by an equally impressive Congress in Cape Town in 2016, and in Abuja in 2018 have galvanized the fraternity, and made them believe in themselves as equal partners with their global peers.
The formation of CAANS, and the resulting self-belief and farsightedness of its members has been truly remarkable. There is a growing sense of camaraderie that is ever evident when the fraternity meets at various highly successful regional or national meetings within the Continent. In this regard, the Egyptian Society, the Moroccan Society, and the Algerian Society have been the flag-bearers in the North, the Congolese Society in Central Africa, the South African Society in the Southern part of the Continent, and the two regional Societies, ANSA and AFNS, have held various meetings and teaching courses for the Continents upcoming generation of neurosurgeons.
The future in the making
Training of future neurosurgeons, through various continental initiatives and in collaboration with global partners, has been a hugely successful endeavor. This has dramatically improved the number of training sites across the Continent, enabling local training program to enhance training capacity, increasing the numbers substantially over the past decade. In this regard, the help of the WFNS Foundation stands out. Through its accreditation of Francophone WFNS Reference Training Sites in Morocco (the Rabat Training Centre), the Anglophone Training Centre in East Africa (the Consortium of Collaborative Neurosurgical Sites of Training of the East, Central and Southern African region – C-CNS-ECSAR), and the training centers in Dakar, Senegal, and Harare, Zimbabwe, candidates have become eligible WFNS Foundation Scholarships. Furthermore, the graduates of these programs are eligible to receive support in terms of equipment such as high-speed drills, microscopes, microsurgical instruments, cranial and spinal sets, bipolar sets, to enable them to set up practice in new sites in their respective regions.
The cross-continental collaboration of training has yielded impressive results. Training centers in Egypt, Morocco, Algeria, Nairobi, South Africa have been participating in training of neurosurgeons from other African countries. This has enhanced subspecialty training across the continent. As a result, specialists in Sub-Saharan Africa are now able to carry out complex spinal surgery, neuro-monitoring guided excision of skull base tumors and spinal tumors, awake craniotomy procedures and manage traumatic brain injuries using advanced monitoring techniques. Two cerebrovascular neurosurgeons trained in South Africa are now available in East Africa, and are able to offer endovascular coiling for complex aneurysms, without the need to travel abroad.
Training standards have steadily advanced in Sub-Saharan Africa and are now fairly similar to the standards in the North and South of the Continent. In order to ensure a harmonized standard of neurosurgical training and care across the continent, a formidable lobby of the continent’s fraternity is seeking to embark on the task of achieving parity of standards across the various training centers through the development of the African Board of Neurological Surgeons – the AfBNS. In this regard, the experience and help, once again, of our illustrious partners globally would be highly appreciated.
In conclusion, and with a huge sense of gratitude to our international partners and associations, and not least to the WFNS and its Foundation, African Neurosurgery has come of age and is set to achieve even higher standards in the years and decades to come.
AFRICAN NEUROSURGERY IS TRULY RISING.
Mahmood Qureshi, MBChB, M.Med (Surg), FCS-ECSA (Neuro), FRCSEd(SN) President – CAANS