For some who pursue it, Global Surgery is a manifestation of the core motivations that drive people into the medical profession: a profound commitment to reducing the suffering of all (especially the most vulnerable) and an eagerness to effectively bring quality care to reality, in any context. The Yale Global Surgery Symposium holds an essential role in cultivating these values and expanding the work that is done at Yale and around the world. This year’s symposium was graced with an outstanding group of speakers and panelists who left the audience energized as ever.
Among these included Dr. Tahmina Banu, Director of the Chittagong Research Institute for Children’s Surgery in Bangladesh, and Dr. Luc Malemo, Dean of HEAL Africa in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Hearing about their professional journeys left trainees like myself in awe, feeling inspired by the adversity that speakers had overcome, their pioneering work reaching patients in remote regions and their leadership in developing curriculum to train and impact generations to come.
Of the many experiences that we heard about, I was particularly struck by the diverse innovations that clinicians improvised in new environments. Some leveraged betel leaf for stoma care and repurposed silo bags and urine catheters for gastroschisis management. The potential impact of this type of scientific creativity is maximized when paralleled with the entrepreneurial structure of organizations like Kids OR, whose founder, Garreth Wood, spoke at the symposium about the value of applying business modeling in the non-profit space.
As an early trainee, there are two types of challenges which are especially burdensome at such a junior level of scholarship. First, clinical experience is not our expertise and we rely on mentorship and informed intuition to design research questions, investigate our curiosities and propose innovative answers. Considerably tied to this reality is the fact that to build our foundation of clinical knowledge, our learning consists more of memorization and study rather than creative problem-solving. As a result, we tend to spend more time regurgitating sound-bites than cultivating our capacity to internalize issues and invent solutions.
Global surgery in all its need offers an oasis for trainees to maximize their existing skills and broaden the scope of their impact in a meaningful way.
The needs of clinical groups in under-resourced areas often benefit from even simple organizational and clinical strategies for which their delivery can more feasibly be achieved by early trainees. Furthermore, while existing clinical knowledge is certainly a requisite for any medical development, the spirit of innovation in non-conventional settings reduces the bias against the limited knowledge base of students. Instead, their fresh perspective may actually offer immense benefit. The unique circumstances and needs of global surgery combined with an enormous appetite for mobilizing volunteers lends itself especially well to engaging clinicians who are in their early stages. Additionally, early trainees also benefit from developing skills towards interdisciplinary collaboration, a keystone of Global Surgery work.
Perhaps the most influential aspect of the Global Surgery Symposium was the way in which it aligned the goals of various clinical disciplines: from midwifery and maternal care to pediatric care, from anesthesia to surgery, from nursing to OR and imaging technologists. It was clear throughout that to achieve the ambitious goals that global bodies and local groups had set out for, it would take a strong network of clinicians to come together and develop advancements. This is a lesson that is imperative for any medical context and can be more deeply cultivated by professionals at any level of their training. Global surgery is a reminder and a champion of this.
The Yale Global Surgery Symposium could not flourish without the leadership and efforts of Dr. Ozgediz and Dr. Ullrich (Department of General Surgery, Yale School of Medicine).