IHTC Program: 40 years of excellence

In 1972, the World Federation of Hemophilia (WFH) launched the International Hemophilia Training Centre (IHTC) Program, with the mandate to offer training fellowships and workshops to medical and paramedical staff from developing countries.

Outlining the vision of the IHTC Program, Anthony Britten, MD, IHTC founding chair stated, “The selected centres would be assuming a responsibility not receiving an honour. These centres will bring inspiration to many and leadership to all of us.”

More than 550 fellowships have been granted to medical professionals in 80 countries since 1972, and every year a selection committee awards 35 applicants a four- to six-week fellowship. Many of these fellows have gone on to become key leaders in the care of bleeding disorders in their own countries. During a WFH session at the WFH World Congress 2012 in Paris, France, on the history of the IHTC Program, some of these individuals shared their experiences with delegates.

Chean Sophal, MD, from the Pediatric Hematology Clinic in Cambodia, was the first Cambodian to receive a fellowship. He was selected for fellowship training in 2008 and learned how to diagnose bleeding disorders, perform laboratory testing, apply physiotherapeutic techniques, and perform surgery in a patient with a bleeding disorder.

“I am now a consultant in pediatric hema­tology and chief of the pediatric hematology clinic,” he said. Dr. Sophal has also set up a coagulation laboratory, developed a national registry, and established the Cambodian Haemophilia Association, which is registered as a national member organization (NMO) with the WFH.

Sukesh C. Nair, MD, of Christian Medical College in Vellore, India, offered the mentor’s viewpoint. “Our hematology department sees a large number of patients and delivers care 24/7,” said Dr. Nair. The college has administered a national hemophilia training program since the mid-1990s, and, since 2004, has trained 22 fellows.

“We make an effort to understand the training and experience of the candidate, to determine the needs of the individual or the department. Every day, the faculty member has dedicated time with the fellow. Everyone spends time in the laboratory and follows the treatment of the patient,” he said. A major emphasis is hands-on training aimed at maximizing real-life situations.

“It has been a privilege to be an IHTC. We have learned and gained from these interactions,” said Dr. Nair.