Student-driven Research Improves Neurosurgical Patient Outcomes

October 3, 2019

Dr. Fuller and team members in Uganda.

There are 25 neurosurgeons at Duke Hospital, but the entire country of Uganda has fewer than half that number.

Professor of Neurosurgery Michael Haglund is committed to helping Uganda increase its neurosurgical capacity. He leads Duke Global Neurosurgery and Neurology, a division that collaborates with Mulago National Referral Hospital and Makerere University in Uganda.

Nurse pointing.Along with training more neurosurgeons, the partnership seeks to improve patient outcomes after surgery. In 2016, a Bass Connections team began focusing on three key issues in Mulago’s neurosurgery ward: medication management, patient-family education and infection control.

Led by Haglund and Assistant Professor in Neurosurgery Anthony Fuller, the team has made steady progress on these key goals. It has increased patients’ and caretakers’ understanding of their medications, developed educational materials to build health literacy skills, deployed hand sanitizer stations and lowered the infection rate by 15-20%.

This experience has been transformative for many Duke students. Over the past four years, participants included 16 undergraduates – many of whom participated for multiple years – as well as four medical students and one master’s student. Some have continued their involvement through follow-on research and senior theses as well as coauthored manuscripts; some recent graduates are now bringing this valuable experience to medical school.

Haglund and Fuller are also involved in another Bass Connections team in partnership with Makerere University. Led by Deborah Attix, the team carried out a mixed method study on the needs of primary healthcare providers who treat epilepsy. Findings will inform efforts to design educational programs with the goal of improving epilepsy treatment in Uganda.

Bass Connections Invites Proposals for 2020-2021 Projects

Duke faculty, staff, postdocs, graduate students, trainees and fellows are invited to submit proposals for projects that engage in interdisciplinary research into complex societal challenges. Please see the proposal guidelines and apply by November 4 at 5:00 p.m.

Tony Fuller and team members.It’s been a tremendous opportunity to work on this, and our students have been amazing. We start with research questions, but students are driving the research design. The infection rate has dropped down to less than 8%, driven mainly by the work that undergrads were able to do. –Anthony Fuller, Assistant Professor in Neurosurgery

Bass Connections supports the Duke WILL strategic framework for shaping the university of tomorrow. The Uganda neurosurgery project team is one example of how Duke is transforming teaching and discovery for the 21st century.

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