Neurosurgery in Cameroon: An Interview with Takoutsing Dongmo Aurele Berjo
Today, Takoutsing Dongmo Aurele Berjo, a medical student at the University of Buea, Cameroon, speaks with former InciSioN UK committee member Ines Ongenda. Berjo shares with us his experience of neurosurgery in Cameroon and his hopes for the future of neurosurgical care.
Can you introduce yourself?
I am Takoutsing Dongmo Aurele Berjo, a medical student from the University of Bueain Cameroon. I am a Cameroonian and an aspiring neurosurgeon.
When did you decide you wanted to be a neurosurgeon?
I love neurology and surgery, and neurosurgery appeared to be as the perfect union of these two. I decided to become a neurosurgeon in my second year of medical studies, after watching the medical drama "Grey's Anatomy". I was impressed by the character "Dr. Derek Christopher Shepherd', who was a neurosurgeon. His dexterity and the beauty of his surgeries kept me in admiration. My motivation grew bigger after witnessing my first neurosurgical procedure performed by Dr. Tagny Merlin who is a Cameroonian neurosurgeon. During this surgery, a skull fragment elevation, debridement and dural repair was done on a patient who sustained an open depressed skull fracture. The surgeon’s dexterity during the surgery excited my admiration.
What is the process like in your country to become a neurosurgeon?
In Cameroon, the admission into Neurosurgical training is through a national competitive entrance examination for Cameroonians and foreigners from States that have signed an agreement of cooperation with the Republic of Cameroon. Candidates must have at least two years of professional experience and successful candidates then get the opportunity to be trained.
What are some of the challenges you are facing on this journey?
I face a myriad of challenges. Firstly, there is a lack of neurosurgeon-educators in my university. As a result, I lack an appropriate understanding of neurosurgery to pursue and develop my career. Secondly, there is a lack of neurosurgical units or hospitals in my hometown where I can do clinical rotations to familiarise myself with practical concepts in neurosurgery. Moreover, I do not have finances to pay for my neurosurgical training. I come from a modest family and the cost of neurosurgical training is above my parent’s financial means.
What do you like best about where you are?
I might not have access to neurosurgeons but I seize any opportunity to assist available general surgeons, obstetricians and gynaecologists in the theatre and learn from their experience which I believe is helpful for my career development. The availability of the internet permits me to bridge the lack of neurosurgeons in my locality by attending webinar presentations by neurosurgeons to get some neurosurgical knowledge.
What are your hopes for neurosurgery and neurosurgeons in your country?
My dream for Cameroon is that, anyone in need of neurosurgical care gets affordable, accessible, safe, standard and quantitative care without risking poverty. I dream of a Cameroon where more kids from any social class will aspire to become neurosurgeons and will be able to materialise their dream without any hindrance. My hopes for my beloved country is that Cameroon becomes a reference for sustainable neurosurgical care in the continent.
Can you finish this sentence: AFAN is...
AFAN is the hope of many aspiring neurosurgeons in Africa to see their dream of becoming neurosurgeons come true. AFAN gives us all the opportunity not only to dream big but also equips us with the capacity to make our dreams become reality.
What does Global Neurosurgery mean to you?
Global neurosurgery for me is equity in neurosurgical care in the whole world. Let the person in Ekona (a small locality in the south-west region of Cameroon) receive the same neurosurgical care as a person in London will do within the same timeframe without the risk of facing a financial catastrophe later on.