Project Report: Oral and Maxillofacial Training in Cambodia

By John Arvier, December 2017

Dr Scott Armstrong & local trainee Dr Sandeth Phan operating under supervision in Phnom Pen
Dr Scott Armstrong & local trainee Dr Sandeth Phan operating under supervision in Phnom Penh.

For several years a number of ANZAOMS members have conducted an outreach program in Cambodia. Volunteer visits commenced semi-regularly in 2004, always with the overall aim of instituting a formal training program, analogous to similar successful ventures in Bangladesh (1990’s) and PNG (early 2000’s).

As in all developing nations, healthcare in Cambodia is a lower priority, and there is a vast untreated pool of surgical pathology – a combination of congenital deformities; poor socioeconomic conditions; workplace health and safety issues; chaotic traffic; interpersonal violence; and a racial predisposition to benign but aggressive fibro-osseous neoplasms.

After a series of talks with local parties, in late 2012 a formal 4-year training program leading to the degree of Masters in Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery (OMS) was commenced through the International University, IU in Phnom Penh. Some financial support was obtained from ANZAOMS, IAOMS and the Asian Association of Oral & Maxillofacial Surgeons. A formal curriculum was written, broadly based on the one used for training institutions in Australia and NZ.

Dr Barbara Woodhouse has borne the lion’s share of responsibility for ensuring the program in Cambodia continues to conform to the expected standards.

To commence the course in Phnom Penh in late 2012, three trainees were initially selected from a field of applicants by their performance in an entrance examination. A second intake of 2 more post-graduate students occurred the following year. Over the last few years, their local supervision has been augmented by regular visits by International and Australian volunteer surgeons.

Clinical facilities are based at a variety of government hospitals in Phnom Penh; the Khmer-Soviet Friendship Hospital; Kossamak; the Military Hospital; and Calmette (the latter funded by the French Government). Other cases are often treated at Children’s Surgical Centre, funded largely by American charities, although administered by an energetic expatriate English orthopaedic surgeon Dr Jim Gollogly. More recently, two hospitals in the northern city Siem Reap have welcomed Australian volunteers and local trainees – the government Provincial Hospital , and the charity-run Angkor Hospital for Children.

Dr Ben Rahmel KSH Trauma Case
Dr Ben Rahmel KSH Trauma Case

Australian OMS registrars have often accompanied their consultants to Cambodia, at times with support from the ANZAOMS Research & Education Foundation.

We were also very pleased to host one of the Cambodian trainees, Dr Sandeth Phan at the 2017 annual ANZAOMS conference. It was great for conference participants to hear first hand from one of the beneficiaries of the program.

The first batch of Cambodian trainees sat for their final last month, November 2017. These included formal written papers, case presentations, and clinical vivas, and also submission of a research thesis as part of the formal University requirements.

Particular thanks to Dr Caroline Acton who generously offered to fly to Phnom Penh just for a very brief visit, so as to fulfil the requirements for two overseas examiners for the defence of the first batch of research theses, and Dr Paul Duke who performed a similar role for the second batch.

It should be emphasised OMS is still very much in its infancy in Cambodia. More teachers, tutors and mentors are always welcome and very much needed in all areas of clinical and academic activity (particularly the latter). Please consider volunteering if you have any interest in such activities.

What is ANZAOMS?

The Australian and New Zealand Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons (ANZAOMS) is the professional representative organisation for Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery (OMS).

Our focus is on the advancement, advocacy for, and continuing education of OMS, through engagement with all levels of government, regulators, key public and private stakeholders and the general public.

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ANZAOMS acknowledges the Traditional Owners of the land on which we meet and work, and all Traditional Owners of country throughout Australia. We recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ continuing connection to land, place, waters and community. We pay our respects to their cultures, country and elders past present and emerging.

ANZAOMS recognises the unique role of Māori as Tangata Whenua and embraces Te Tiriti o Waitangi recognising Māori as tino rangitiratanga of Aotearoa/New Zealand while embracing the three guiding principles of the Treaty – Partnership Participation and Protection. We will endeavour to implement bicultural policies and practices that incorporate and value Māori cultural concepts, values and practices.