Epigraph Vol. 17 Issue 3, Fall 2015

ALADE Epilepsy Fellowships 2015

Throughout the world, there is a severe shortage of medical professionals with expertise in epilepsy, and Latin America is no exception. ALADE (“Academia Latinoamericana de Epilepsia”) has developed a number of training opportunities to improve this shortage, including itinerant courses, educational materials in the form of books and brochures, as well as ALADE courses during the Latin American (LA) Regional Congresses. To accelerate and strengthen the training opportunities, ALADE has initiated Latin American epilepsy fellowships. We undertook this initiative because in many countries the opportunity to focus training on epilepsy is limited or non-existent and because there is no dedicated funding to cover the expenses of a trainee from outside the country.

The ALADE Fellowships began in 2011 as part of the educational activities of ALADE and the ILAE Commission on Latin American Affairs. The main objective has been to decrease the treatment gap in a number of Latin American countries. One of the ways of achieving this goal was to “train the trainers,” in order to obtain a multiplying effect by transferring knowledge from one institution to another through a trainee. The other idea behind this initiative was to take advantage of the training facilities of established epilepsy centers within the region and as a means of decentralizing the usual north-south academic flow. There is already evidence that the training experience in a country with similar cultural and economic conditions to one's own is more relevant to the trainee's clinical practice as opposed to the experience one might have in systems that are totally different.

Funding is essential to the success of this effort, and these programs are funded by the ILAE through the budget of the Latin American Commission in an amount of US $12,000 per selected candidate for a 12 month period. The professionals who are eligible to apply for the fellowships need to be child or adult neurologists or neurosurgeons from Latin America and be interested in spending one training year at an established Latin American epilepsy center.

In turn, for these centers to qualify to be included in the list from which the selected candidates make their choice, each must have a reputation for being an established institution known to carry out assistance, education and research activities in the field of epilepsy with structured courses in clinical epileptology or surgery. This year nine centers from five countries were included in this group. Before the application review takes place, these centers must inform ALADE of their willingness to receive fellows and about the number of child and/or adult neurologists they can accommodate, which in general is one to three.

To publicize the program widely, we made the call for 2015 Fellowships through the ILAE Web and via all LA chapters. Accompanying the call, other documents containing the rules of ALADE fellowships and a list of LA epilepsy centers willing to receive fellows were also uploaded to the Web page and sent to the chapters.

This year there were 13 candidates. The applications were analyzed according to a set of pre-established selection criteria. These criteria included previous scientific productivity, reasons to apply for the fellowship stated in a letter, prior participation in educational activities, country of origin (and previous training opportunities), as well as engagement with the activities of the institution (preferably university) to which the candidate belongs. There was funding for a total of 3 fellows; a fourth wished to make use of the opportunity and was able to find funding elsewhere. This year's fellows are introduced at the end of this article.

At the end of their stay, the fellows are expected to send a report on their academic experience and the corresponding centers as well to submit a progress report and evaluation of their guests. A follow-up evaluation of the fellows from previous years is being initiated.

ALADE and the Latin American Commission hope that all the fellowships result in a very positive training period that may contribute to improved epilepsy care in the region!

Alejandro Scaramelli
ALADE President

Dr Vanessa Benjumea
Dr Vanessa Benjumea (Colombia) is going to H. Ramos Mejía, Buenos Aires, Argentina. She completed her neurology residence at CES University, Medellín, Antioquia, Colombia.
Dr Eva López (Venezuela)
Dr Eva López (Venezuela) will go to the F.I.R.E. Center, Cartagena, Colombia. She completed her general neurology training at Ciudad Hospitalaria “Dr Enrique Tejeras,” Valencia, Estado Carabobo.
Dr Liza Núñez (Perú)
Dr Liza Núñez (Perú) chose to go to the Clínica Las Condes, Santiago, Chile. She is an adult neurologist at the department of epilepsy, Instituto de Ciencias Neurológicas, Lima, Perú.
Dr Martha Ríos (Cuba)
Dr Martha Ríos (Cuba) selected H. Clínicas, Riberao Preto, Brazil. She is a pediatric neurosurgeon who studied at “Juan Manuel Márquez” Hospital, La Habana.