Travel Report: Sharing hernia knowledge in the land of the midnight sun

Travel Report: Sharing hernia knowledge in the land of the midnight sun

Harstad, Norway is the furthest north I have ever been.  At 68.8 degrees North, it lies inside the artic circle.  I had the privilege of visiting Dr Knut Borch (EHS Education Secretary) in his natural habitat!  A big thank you Knut, for all your hospitality, and to the others in Harstad who shared their time and fed me!!


Surgery is a life time of learning.  And you are never too old to learn! Spending a week with Knut at his hospital will remain in my memories for years to come.  Operating together, introducing new things, peritoneal flap repair, fasciotens, as well as sharing tips and tricks in hernia repair.  We did three large abdominal wall repairs together over the week, so that left some time for climbing the hills (still with pockets of snow in June!) behind Haarstad, and exploring the islands nearby.  I learnt a new slip knot!! Ate reindeer in a traditional Norwegian stew! The list of firsts goes on.


You get to know someone when you stay with them.  Chats long into the night, with no sunset to give a visual clue that its time to sleep! Knut has a passion about safety and quality in surgery.  We first met in 2017 at the EHS conference in Vienna – he had an idea about a project to help educate surgeons, the theatre team, and improve theatre activity and thus safety.  That was the reason to meet up – and discuss his ideas, perhaps better called a vision. It was about sharing expert surgical knowledge, operative steps, the right equipment ready for the start of the case, the whole team aware of plan A, and then learning from mistakes, not repeating them as prevention is better than cure!  The project, named Alfred Surgery, as an online platform is maturing, with many hours of work as well as grant money ploughed into it.  But watch this space, it might be coming to a hospital near you before too long!!  And it needs an army of volunteers to cover all the hernia surgery options, let alone the breadth of surgical operations itself.


The #herniafriends family grows bigger in number but smaller in distance.  I recommend the fun of travelling and experiencing health care systems across Europe and indeed further afield.  I funded this trip myself, part work, part holiday, but a priceless life experience! The EHS offers travelling fellowships too – watch out for the next round of travelling fellowships for 2024. Make sure you are a member of the EHS. You too can see the midnight sun!!

Knut and myself silhouetted by the midnight sun
Elgenes at midnight!
Looking across to the island of Grytøya from Sandsøya


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