College of Medicine & Veterinary Medicine

Doctor celebrates online learning first

A surgeon from Malawi has become the first doctor from his country to graduate from an online surgical training programme.

Dr Lughano Kalongolera

The innovative teaching method has enabled Dr Lughano Kalongolera to study remotely while continuing to work in his local hospital.

Dr Kalongolera has spent the past three years studying for an MSc in Surgical Sciences. The qualification is offered jointly by the University and the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh.

The part-time e-learning programme began in 2006 and is transforming access to specialist medical knowledge. It now supports more than 250 surgical trainees internationally.


In this short film Dr Kalongolera and Prof O James Garden explain the benefits of the online MSc in Surgical Sciences.


Last week it was announced that the course, as part of a suite of five online courses, had been awarded the Queen’s Anniversary Prize for Higher and Further Education for excellence in e-learning. The award is widely regarded as the highest national honour in UK education.

Most doctors in Malawi have to travel abroad to acquire such knowledge and many do not return. By studying online with the University of Edinburgh, I have been able to remain in my country to learn, while continuing to treat those who need me most.

Dr Lughano KalongoleraUniversity of Malawi

Dr Kalongolera is one of seven Malawian surgical trainees to receive a £9,000 scholarship to cover the cost of his course. Funding has come from the Scottish Government’s International Development Fund, with additional support from pharmaceuticals company Johnson & Johnson.

This is part of a wider £1.4m partnership, involving the University of Edinburgh and the Colleges of Medicine, Nurses and Health Sciences in Malawi, which uses e-learning techniques to transform the education and training opportunities for medical staff.

By using virtual patient case-studies for discussion, students learn how to make better clinical decisions. They can discuss patient scenarios with fellow e-learners, while under the guidance of a supervisor based in Edinburgh.

Dr Kalongolera’s graduation today is evidence that the professional and academic development of the surgical trainee can be delivered effectively at a distance. His experience and success underlines the versatility of our award-winning Masters programme in meeting the demands of surgical trainees, no matter where they are based.

Professor O James GardenProgramme Director, MSc in Surgical Sciences

Historical links

Scotland has enjoyed strong ties with Malawi which date from the work of medical missionary Dr David Livingstone, who explored the region in the 1850s.

Today, academics and staff at Edinburgh are working with a range of partners in Malawi and throughout Africa.

The University’s Global Academies, established to work across disciplines and bring specialists together, are helping to tackle some of the biggest challenges faced by countries like Malawi.