New University role for surgeon to help burn victims

A burns and plastic surgeon is to help create the new Centre for Global Burns Injury Policy and Research, which will establish Swansea University as a national and international hub for developing strategies to reduce the incidence and impact of burn injuries globally.

‌‌Professor Tom Potokar, who will continue with his existing role at Welsh Centre for Burns & Plastic Surgery at Morriston Hospital, will take up his new University post from 1 October where he will focus on meeting the challenges in delivering affordable, life-saving treatments across a range of existing health systems and a wide diversity of settings worldwide.

His new role at the College of Human and Health Sciences will centre on:-

  • supporting quality research, teaching and strategy development to deliver real change in the management of burns patients globally
  • working across disciplines and translational research and teaching
  • bringing together researchers, clinicians, government, policy makers and the citizen
  • linking and contributing to the national and international burns strategies being developed by global governments

Professor Tom PotokarProfessor Potokar is also director of  Interburns an international volunteer network of expert health care professionals who work to transform burn care and prevention in low and middle income countries.  The organisation delivers high quality training, education and research at minimal cost and over the last decade has trained over 3,000 health care professionals to provide good quality care to burns patients.

Professor Potokar said: “I am pleased to be joining the University to establish this new research centre. While burn injuries represent a huge international challenge, there is also an enormous opportunity to transform the global picture of burns through training, research, prevention and capacity-building and will save lives, reduce disability and prevent enormous suffering.”

Professor Ceri Phillips, head of the College of Human and Health Sciences, said: “I am delighted to welcome Professor Potokar and am confident that his work will help address the key challenge faced by the global health community - to turn science and research into action in order to address this health crisis in the real world.”

Burns - key facts

  • The World Health Organisation (WHO) has described burns as the forgotten global public health crisis
  • Worldwide nearly 11 million people each year suffering burns severe enough to require medical attention, whereas burn prevention programmes training and burn care services are under-resourced.
  • 95% of burns occur in low and middle income countries and 70% of these injuries affect children (WHO 2011)
  • The best burn centres in high income countries can save burn patients with burns over 90% of the body’s surface area, while in low and middle income countries deeper burns of over 40% are almost invariably fatal.
  • Nearly four million women in low income countries are severely burnt each year, a similar number to those diagnosed with HIV and AIDS.
  • The global epicentre of burns injuries is South-East Asia; in this region, three times as many women are burnt than contract HIV and AIDS. Burns in India are one of the commonest cause of death of women between 15-30 years (The Lancet 2009).
  • Fire-related burns are the sixth leading cause of death among 5–14 year olds. Burns are in the top five causes of injury that impact child mortality and morbidity and after the age of five, and injuries are the biggest threat to a child’s survival (WHO / UNICEF 2008).