Sharing expertise in stroke in Malawi

Laura Benjamin, Simone Browning, Selina Edwards and Rob Simister

Dr Laura Benjamin, Clinical Lecturer in Neurology at the University’s Institute of Infection and Global Health, recently visited Malawi on a fact-finding mission as part of plans to open the nation’s first stroke centre.

The incidence of stroke is on the increase across most of sub-Saharan Africa, as treatments and vaccines for infectious diseases improve and people are living longer.

My PhD looked at the link between HIV infection and stroke in Malawian adults, and made me realise the country’s vital need for a dedicated treatment service for stroke patients.

I’m now part of a team of clinical stroke professionals aiming to bring together the right training, funding and expertise to open a stroke unit Queen Elizabeth Central hospital in Malawi – where stroke is one of the most common reasons for admission and the third biggest cause of death.

The project is a collaboration between the University College London Hospitals (UCLH), University College London (UCL) and the University of Liverpool.

I visited Malawi alongside three colleagues from UCLH’s hyper-acute stroke unit (HASU) to help progress our plans, which include applying for funding, refurbishing and equipping an existing building and bringing Malawian staff to the UK for training.

We also hope that UK neurologists and stroke nurses could spend time on clinical rotation at the new unit to help carry out valuable research into the causes of stroke. These rotations will also peoples’ abilities to go going back to basics, and rely on their clinical acumen, which will enhance their medical skills.

The fact-finding trip was really useful and our plans are developing well, with hopes that the new unit will be up and running within a year.

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