The number of hemoglobinopathy patients in North America continues to increase, due to high rates of immigration from countries with high prevalence and improved survival. Recent research has led to evidence-based improvements in acute and chronic care of patients with sickle cell disease and thalassemia. Studies have noted gaps in clinicians’ knowledge about management of hemoglobinopathies, with the result that common presentations, such as sickle vaso-occlusive episodes, are often mismanaged. Hematologists completing training in North America require the knowledge and expertise to manage these medically complex patients.
To ascertain the extent of hemoglobinopathy teaching and exposure in Canadian Adult and Pediatric Hematology Training Programs, and to assess the perceived importance of hemoglobinopathy knowledge, we administered an online survey to all Training Program Directors (TPDs), and to all residents who were currently enrolled or who had completed training in the previous year. Surveys were available in English and French.
The response rate for TPDs was 92% (22/24). Ninety five percent of PDs felt that hemoglobinopathy learning is “important” or “very important” for hematology trainees in their region. Four programs have a mandatory hemoglobinopathy rotation, 14 programs have mandatory hemoglobinopathy clinic participation, and 17 programs have mandatory hemoglobinopathy lab exposure. Laboratory time ranges widely, from “0-2 hours” to “greater than 20 hours”. All programs covered laboratory aspects of hemoglobinopathy, outpatient care of sickle cell disease and inpatient care of sickle cell disease, and all but one program covered outpatient care of thalassemias. In 1/2 to 2/3 of adult training programs, these topics were covered at only a basic level. All pediatric programs covered outpatient and inpatient care of sickle cell disease “in-depth”, with 90% and 40% of programs covering outpatient thalassemia care and laboratory diagnostics “in-depth”, respectively. All 22 programs had academic half-days with teaching devoted to hemoglobinopathy. Seventy-seven percent of programs had faculty member(s) with an interest in hemoglobinopathy.
The response rate for residents was 45% (70/156). The majority of respondents were senior residents, with 88% currently in post-graduate year five, or above. Among residents in adult hematology programs, 61% had completed a rotation or elective with a focus on hemoglobinopathy versus 25% in the pediatric programs. Total numbers of hemoglobinopathy patients seen ranged from “0” to “more than 50”, and laboratory exposure varied from “none” to “in-depth”. Most residents with clinical hemoglobinopathy experience had seen patients with both sickle cell disease and thalassemia major or intermedia. Of residents who responded, 83% felt that hemoglobinopathy knowledge was “important” or “very important” to their future practice.
All TPDs and 90% of residents felt that online hemoglobinopathy learning modules could be beneficial for resident learning.
There appears to be wide variability in depth and breadth of clinical and laboratory hemoglobinopathy learning in Hematology training programs across Canada. TPDs and residents place high importance on hemoglobinopathy learning, but some centres have small patient numbers, or lack faculty with interest in hemoglobinoapthies. Online learning modules could provide added learning opportunities for residents.
No relevant conflicts of interest to declare.