Increasing pediatric radiation oncology capacity in sub-saharan Africa using technology: a pilot of a pediatric radiation oncology virtual training course

BMC Med Educ. 2024 Mar 20;24(1):317. doi: 10.1186/s12909-024-05313-5.


Background: The shortage of skilled healthcare professionals in pediatric oncology and the limited access to training programs remain significant challenges in Nigeria and sub-Saharan Africa. The the Pediatric Radiation Oncology (Virtual) Course, 'PedROC' project aims to contribute to improving pediatric cancer outcomes in Nigeria by increasing the capacity of radiation oncology professionals. To address the gap in access to pediatric radiation oncology professional development, the PedROC project was created, harnessing technology to improve radiation oncology training via a curriculum delivered through web-conferencing. This study aimed to evaluate the effectiveness of the PedROC pilot in enhancing the capacity, confidence, and skill of radiation oncologists in decision-making, prescribing, and treatment planning of radiotherapy for children diagnosed with cancer.

Methods: A multidisciplinary faculty of specialists in radiation oncology, pediatric oncology, oncology nursing, radiation therapy technology, and medical physics collaborated to identify the key learning needs in pediatric radiation oncology in the country. The team collaborated to develop a comprehensive curriculum covering the most common pediatric cancers in sub-Saharan Africa for the training program. The training course was conducted over two days, delivering twenty-four half-hour sessions for a total of 12 h, from July 31 to August 01, 2021.

Results: Analysis of pre and post - training surveys showed a significant increase in self-reported confidence measures across all domains among radiation oncologists. The program successfully improved participants' knowledge and confidence levels in managing common pediatric cancers using radiotherapy, particularly addressing radiotherapy-specific issues such as appropriate dose, target volume delineation, treatment planning, dose constraints, and plan evaluation.

Conclusion: The PedROC pilot showed the efficacy of this model in enhancing the capacity and confidence of radiation oncology professionals involved in the treatment of pediatric cancer. The findings indicate that technology holds significant potential to increase pediatric radiation oncology capacity in Africa, ensuring improved access to proper treatment and ultimately improving pediatric cancer outcomes.

Keywords: Africa; Capacity building; Medical Education; Pediatric Cancer; Pediatric Radiation Oncology; Professional development; Radiotherapy; Technology; Virtual training.

MeSH terms

  • Africa South of the Sahara
  • Child
  • Curriculum
  • Humans
  • Medical Oncology / education
  • Neoplasms* / radiotherapy
  • Radiation Oncology* / education