A survey of South African Maxillofacial & Oral Surgeon opinions regarding the academic education in the field of cleft lip/palate and craniofacial deformities
Maxillofacial and oral surgeons (MFOS) are trained to manage hard and soft tissue conditions affecting the orofacial region. They, therefore, play an essential role in the health care of cleft lip/palate (CLP) and craniofacial deformities (CFD) patients. The complex and lengthy nature of CLP and CFD management requires collaboration between different disciplines. Consequently, it becomes increasingly important that the academic education available to MFOS provides in-depth knowledge, multidisciplinary participation and adequate clinical exposure provided by field experts. This study aimed to investigate the exposure and knowledge level of MFOS regarding the management of CLP and CFD. A second objective was to obtain an opinion from practising MFOS about the academic educational needs of those working with CLP and CFD. An online survey and telephone interviews (using a structured questionnaire) were used to investigate the level and scope of the MFOS academic education and to determine their academic needs. The questionnaire was completed by 53 (of 121) of practising MFOS on the Medpages health care provider database, 64.8% of whom had more than 10 years of professional experience. Of the respondents, 60% showed a good general knowledge of CLP and CFD. However, 66.5% acknowledged that they had received only limited clinical training and exposure, which prevented them from providing adequate services to CLP/CFD patients. Only 41% of the respondents offered primary and/or only secondary treatment for both CLP and CFD patients, and 53.8% of them had participated in multidisciplinary teams. All the respondents agreed on the need for a dedicated training programme(s) in CLP and CFD management, and the majority recommended a subspecialty training either by degree courses or clinical fellowship and / or certification. This study demonstrates that postgraduate academic training and clinical exposure are limited in the CLP and CFD fields. All the respondents agreed that an educational strategy to meet the needs of MFOS providing CLP and CFD care should be established. Participants suggested that part-time clinical and/or degree courses should be developed.
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