SELF-Training

Designing a training module for general surgeons and trainees to learn to repair simple congenital heart defects, such as patent ductus arteriosus

Team Lead: Dr. Marisa Seepersaud

Lead Institution: Georgetown Public Hospital, Guyana

Team Countries: Guyana, United Kingdom, Norway, United States

Team SELF-Training (Set Every Little-heart Free by Training) is designing a training module for general surgeons and trainees to learn to repair simple congenital heart defects, such as patent ductus arteriosus (PDA). With the Discovery Award, the team will design a hyper realistic, tissue-like physical model with built-in sensors paired with augmented reality. A mobile app will complement the module with educational materials and virtual mentorship.

The platform can safely and reliably develop the necessary skills to provide care to thousands of children who would otherwise go without. 

“Congenital heart defects are among the most common birth defects,” according to Dr. Marisa Seepersaud. “Half of the children born with these defects will require surgical intervention before age five. Unfortunately, too many children in low and middle income countries lack access to a pediatric cardiac surgeon or specialized care.” This results in a significant disease burden and, often, mortality.


Congenital heart disease is among the most common birth defects, affecting approximately one percent of all babies born. About half of these children will require a surgical intervention before the age of five. Unfortunately, a disproportionate number of children in low and middle income countries lack access to a paediatric cardiac surgeon or specialized care, resulting in a significant burden of disease. 

Team SELF-Training (Setting Every Little heart Free) has team members in Guyana, United Kingdom, Norway, and the United States. 

They plan to use their Discovery Award to develop an innovative simulator utilizing a hyper-realistic physical model with built-in sensors paired with augmented reality to teach the repair of common congenital heart defects, for example patent ductus arteriosus (PDA). Left untreated, a PDA can allow poorly oxygenated blood to flow in the wrong direction, weakening the heart muscle and causing heart failure and other complications.

The team is looking beyond PDA closure procedures. “Building on our initial model of PDA closure, the training tool has potential to grow to include training for more complex lesions,” says team member Marissa Seepersad. She is based at Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation in Guyana, the lead institution for the SELF-training team. “This will expand access to care to even more patients, reducing mortality and decreasing the burden of disease and health care costs.”