Dr. Blaine L. Enderson, right, Deb Tuggle, Teresa Day, Dr. Phillip Mitchell, and Niki Rasnick, from UT Medical Center, depart for Africa from McGhee Tyson Airport. Sponsored by the Rotary Club of Knoxville, they are headed out to Zimbabwe to provide trauma training for doctors and nurses. Photo by Wade Payne/Special to the Knoxville News Sentinel.
UT medical team bringing trauma care training to Zimbabwe
5:15 PM, Jan 31, 2015
A collaborative dream more than a year in the making took another step toward fruition on Saturday as a local medical team of nine doctors and nurses departed McGhee Tyson Airport on a mission of mercy to Zimbabwe to provide trauma training in that country.
The team — headed by Dr. Phil Mitchell and trauma nurse Niki Rasnake of the University of Tennessee Medical Center — will provide Advanced Trauma Care for Nurses training in the African country.
“This will be the first time ever that the nursing trauma component has been taught in Africa,” said Rasnake, who is the trauma program manager at UT Medical Center.
Also, for just the third time ever in Africa, the team will conduct Advanced Trauma Life Support training to doctors in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe.
Mitchell said that 32 nurses and 16 doctors in Zimbabwe will receive the training, with nine of the nurses qualifying to be instructors.
The country — whose three leading causes of death are HIV, infant and maternal mortality, and trauma — is overrun with orphans.
“They have doctors and nurses over there, but what they are really short on is any type of education,” Rasnake said.
“We’ll be teaching mostly about trauma. We’ll teach them how to take care of them (patients) in the first hour. That’s key. It’s the golden hour for survival.”
Rasnake said that procedures such as inserting chest tubes and the proper techniques for clearing airways will be taught at the now state-of-the-art training facility, which previously had served as a convent since the 1950s.
The idea for the mission and the establishment of a medical training facility in Zimbabwe sprang from a conversation more than a year ago between Mitchell and Townes Osborn, past president and Rotary Foundation committee chairwoman.
“She was the spark — nothing like this happens without someone like her,” said Mitchell, who was born in Zimbabwe.
The Rotary Club of Knoxville got the ball rolling by securing a $52,500 Rotary Foundation Global grant.
After Mitchell helped locate the convent as a future training center, the focus was turned on buying medical equipment, supplies and infrastructure.
Osborn said the outpouring of support, mostly from the Knoxville medical community and area businesses, was phenomenal.
“It mushroomed into $500,000 worth of supplies and materials,” said Osborn, who has worked closely on the project with the Bulawayo Rotary Club in Zimbabwe.
Mitchell said that perhaps the gem of the new facility is the procurement of a fiber-optics video conferencing system that will allow medical instruction to be beamed in from anywhere in the world.
He said that Nic Rudnick, CEO of Liquid Telecommunications in London and an ambassador for technological development in Africa, made the fiber optics system a reality.
“We grew up and played rugby together,” said Mitchell.
While many factions have come together to make the new nurse training center in Zimbabwe possible, Mitchell pointed to his team just before they embarked on the nearly 9,000 mile trip on Saturday.
“None of this would have happened without this volunteer crew,” said Mitchell.
“The best part is we’ve got really good people who are available to teach.”