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Advocating for Global Access to Surgical Care: A Student Working Group on Global Surgery

The student-led public health organisation Medsin-UK launches a National Working Group on Global Surgery with global ambitions

Image credit: Phalinn Ooi, Flickr
Image credit: Phalinn Ooi, Flickr

The role of surgical care is an emerging priority in health system strengthening in Low- and Middle Income Countries (LMICs). With over 2 billion people lacking access to surgical care worldwide and the burden of global surgical disease currently estimated to account for 11% of the world’s disability-adjusted life years much more needs to be done to address this emergent public health challenge. Indeed, surgical illness is predicted to eclipse those of HIV, TB and Malaria by the year 2026.

To sustain progress in improving surgical standards overseas there is consensus that surgery must be integrated into the health care systems of LMICs. In order to achieve this, strong multi-actor collaborations should be encouraged. Universities and international organisations are increasingly aware of the need to improve surgical standards overseas and efforts to facilitate this have been made through fellowships and partnerships with institutions in LMICs. Industry actors have also supported efforts to improve surgical capacity, primarily through investments in overseas training centers.

Among the groups tackling the surgical care crisis at a global level is the World Health Organisation’s Global Initiative for Emergency and Essential Surgical Care (GIEESC), the College of Surgeons of East, Central and Southern Africa (COSECSA) as well as several academic groups, notably in the UK and North America. So far, no student groups have ventured into the field of Global Surgery, in spite of the great potential for such involvement. Many medical students express interest in surgery, which is reflected by the great interest in Student Surgical Societies around the world. Similarly, the attraction of Global Health has led to great popularity for such organisations as the Medsin-UK and the International Federation of Medical Students’ Associations (IFMSA, the world’s largest student organisation). Finally, there is currently a gap in knowledge of the issues surrounding surgery in LMICs, outside of academia. The student body certainly has a role to play in raising the profile of surgery in the global health agenda through advocacy and raising awareness of what has been referred to as the “neglected stepchild of global health”.

Image credit: Phalinn Ooi, Flickr
Image credit: Phalinn Ooi, Flickr

To this end, Medsin-UK recently launched a Global Surgery National Working Group (NWG) calling for students to actively engage with the challenges of the global burden of surgical disease and seek innovative ways in which to contribute to help tackle the issue. The central objective of the group is to raise awareness about Global Surgery to fellow medical students as well as the public in the UK and abroad. Building on previous successes, such as the Global Health and the Surgeon Conference, we have already engaged in discussions with the WHO, non-governmental organisations, academia and other student groups to promote partnerships and facilitate surgically oriented ethical electives whereby students can engage in sustainable capacity building activities such as disseminating training guides and assisting in training courses. A web page has been created and a policy statement on the importance of Global Surgery that will be presented at the upcoming IFMSA General Assembly is currently in preparation. A recent and particularly exciting collaboration with the International Association of Student Surgical Societies has led to the formation of a daughter organisation, a Global Working Group on Global Surgery, which holds promise to become a very useful collaboration as we advance our cause globally.

The Medsin-UK Global Surgery NWG believe in increasing awareness about the importance of equitable access to surgical care globally by advocating for improved surgical skills training and support for healthcare facilities in resource-limited settings. By adopting a collaborative approach, involving actors at all levels and from various backgrounds, we aim to contribute to the improvement of capacity for surgical care and the reduction of the global burden of surgical disease.


Rele Ologunde

Rele1Rele is a fourth year medical student at Imperial College London and co-founding director of the Medsin-UK Global Surgery national working group. Rele is past president of the Imperial College Surgical Society and a former World Health Organisation intern in Emergency and Essential Surgical care.


Cameron Stocks

Cameron1Cameron is a fourth year medical student at St. Bartholomew’s Hospital in London, having studied pre-clinical Medicine at the University of Cambridge. He is also National Director of Medsin-UK and co-founding director of the Medsin-UK Global Surgery national working group.


James Yeats

Yeats1James is a final year medical student at the University of Sheffield and a past president of the University of Sheffield Medsin-UK branch. James is also a former World Health Organisation intern in Emergency and Essential Surgical care.


Hampus Holmer

HampusHampus is a medical student at Lund University, Sweden, and a founding member of the Medsin-UK national working group on Global Surgery. Hampus is also co-founder of the Global Working Group on Global Surgery and works as a Research Associate in Global Surgery at Harvard Medical School.

Acknowledgements: Shivanee Vigneswaran and Christine Lee (founding members of the Medsin-UK Global Surgery national working group).

Conflicts of interest: The authors have no conflict of interest to declare. No funding was received to support this work.

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