Center for Global Surgery, University of Utah

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Initially approved as a program within the Department of Surgery in 2009, the Center for Global Surgery has grown to include other departments within the Health Sciences (Anesthesia, Ophthalmology, Orthopedics, Family Practice and Preventive Medicine) programs (Telehealth) and the main campus (Engineering, and Anthropology) to serve a broad community within the University of Utah and worldwide.

The Center provides a forum for collaboration and intersection of many disciplines that impact surgical care. While departments of surgery and surgical specialties are well-established components of all medical schools, these departments generally focus on the teaching of technical aspects of surgery and clinical and basic science aspects of peri-operative care. Few have dedicated resources to the study of surgical systems or “ecosystems” within healthcare as a whole.

The following were established as priorities:

  • Overcoming misconceptions about the scope of global surgery and its potential as an academic endeavor.
  • Improving public and academic awareness of disparities in surgical care as a public health problem, and advocating for improved access for underserved populations worldwide.
  • Extending expertise in Global Surgery by training undergraduate students, graduate students, medical students, residents, fellows and faculty in research methods pertinent to the field. Students have the opportunity to pursue an MPH or Masters in Clinical and Translational Sciences while studying global surgical issues.
  • Offering local faculty and international partners in surgical specialties including anesthesia the opportunity to broaden their research and clinical skills through collaboration in international settings.
  • Developing multidisciplinary opportunities for faculty from non-medical fields to study and participate in research pertaining to surgical care.

The Department of Surgery’s commitment to establishing the Center led to an institutional commitment as the benefits to the university as a whole became clear. Since its inception, the Center has supported engagement in advocacy at the World Health Assembly, education including courses in global surgery, the University of Utah’s Extreme Affordability Conferences, and IRB-approved international collaborative research. Global Surgery is now recognized in foundational surgical textbooks and publications on disease control priorities. Similar academic programs in global surgery can benefit universities at many levels and should be integrated into dynamic and robust health education.