The importance of making surgery accessible and affordable word wide is gaining much-needed attention in the press, in our medical schools, and in related industry. To my mind, it can’t happen soon enough. Here are three ways you can learn more and/or get involved.
In the December 28, 2011 issue the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA, December 28, 2011—Vol 306, No. 24) Thomas R. McLean, MD, JD, reviewed Global Surgery and Public Health: A New Paradigm, by Catherine deVries and Raymond R. Price, calling it a “fact-packed book (that) will benefit all physicians in the developed world, regardless of their specialty.”
McLean highlights the book’s examination of how making surgery affordable in the developing world can reduce the developed world’s dependency on expensive healthcare technology. He supports the authors’ argument that this benefit is not complex or unique to the surgical industry, but a natural outcome of innovation.
According to the book, McLean continues, developing countries have made strides in overcoming infectious diseases and diseases related to water quality and hygiene. This has allowed more focus on diseases that could be easily treated surgically, such as hernias, cataracts, and vesicovaginal fistulas.
However, he says deVries and Price are adamant that the solution to implementing a surgical delivery system in the developing world should not be based on a reengineering of expensive models from the developed world, because, “For the 1.6 billion people without electricity, the developed world’s concepts of surgery are impractical.”
The book includes advice on the factors developing countries should consider as they commit economic resources to the creation of a sustainable surgical infrastructure. And it features case studies on how best to partner with private organizations that can help, recognizing that no person or institution has all the tools required to solve this momentous challenge. “But for readers interested in the plight of the less fortunate,” McLean concludes, “Global Surgery and Public Health is a good place to start.”
McLean’s review is timely because author Catherine deVries was recently named Director of the Center for Global Surgery at the University of Utah School of Medicine. In this capacity she is hosting a global surgery conference, Extreme Affordability: Innovative Solutions for Surgical Care, March 22-23, in Salt Lake City, Utah.
Keynote speakers include Clayton Christensen, MBA, Harvard School of Business professor and author of The Innovator’s Dilemma and The Innovator’s Prescription, and Geoffrey Tabin, MD, professor of ophthalmology and visual sciences, director of the Division of International Ophthalmology at the John A. Moran Eye Center at the University of Utah, and founder of The Himalayan Cataract Program. Additional course topics will include The Surgical Ecosystem, BioDesign: Engineering for Extreme Affordability, Surgery for Low Resource Environments, and many more. Find out more at the conference website: http://medicine.utah.edu/globalsurgeryconference.
Catherine deVries is also founder and president of IVUmed, a non-profit organization I work with as a volunteer surgeon, teacher, and mentor, and as a member of the board of directors. VISTA Staffing has been a long-time supporter of IVUmed, and VISTA’s executive vice president, Katie Hoffman Abby, also serves on our board of directors. IVUmed uses a “surgical education workshop” model to teach medical and surgical techniques in urology to physicians and nurses in developing countries. As I have experienced first-hand in workshops from Kisumu, Kenya to Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, these workshops are incubators for many of the concepts of extreme affordability and innovation discussed above.
IVUmed routinely sends volunteers to more than 30 countries including Haiti, India, Honduras, Kenya, Mongolia, Mozambique, Senegal, Nigeria, Vietnam, Zambia, and the West Bank. Our training programs include pediatric urology, focusing on the treatment of reproductive and urinary tract birth defects; reconstructive urology, for treatment such as hydrocele repair for lymphatic filariasis and circumcision for the prevention of HIV/AIDS; women’s urology, which includes vesicovaginal fistula repair; and much more. Is the time right for you to help this important movement gain momentum? For information on volunteer opportunities for urologists, pediatric urologists, endourologists, anesthesiologists, nurses, and non-medical personnel, visit http://ivumed.org/pages/opportunities_abroad.