Global Impact

Training A Nation

“There’s an African saying: ‘When two elephants fight, it is the grass that suffers.’”

Dr. Anthony Charles, an associate professor of surgery with the UNC School of Medicine, is photographed on May 9, 2017, in Chapel Hill. He is also an adjunct associate professor of Public Health in the Gillings School of Global Public Health. Dr. Charles leads the Malawian Surgical Initiative, a partnership between the UNC Department of Surgery, Kamuzu Central Hospital in Lilongwe, Malawi, and the Malawi College of Medicine in Blantyre, Malawi. (Johnny Andrews/UNC-Chapel Hill)

“There’s an African saying: ‘When two elephants fight, it is the grass that suffers.’”

“There’s an African saying: ‘When two elephants fight, it is the grass that suffers,’ and so my job has always been to make sure that the program doesn’t suffer. I always have to be thinking ahead.”

By formal training, Anthony Charles ’09 (M.P.H.) is a trauma surgeon. By experience, he’s a diplomat, convincing Malawian government officials of the need for experienced surgeons. For the past eight years, Charles has built the Malawian Surgical Initiative—a partnership between the UNC Department of Surgery, Kamuzu Central Hospital in Malawi and the Malawi College of Medicine—which trains Malawian surgeons to care for the country’s 15 million people. In December 2015, six surgeons graduated from the five-year program’s first class, bringing the total number of surgeons in Malawi to 20.

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This is story number 17 in the Carolina Stories 225th Anniversary Edition magazine.

It costs $15,000 per year to train a surgeon through the Malawian Surgical Initiative. Funded through public, private and corporate philanthropy, the Initiative covers half of the expenses for students, including a stipend, books and other learning materials, and funding for travel to academic conferences. The rest is covered by the Malawian government.

 

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