Global Health and Advocacy

Residents’ Experience on Global Health Program

August 10, 2010

Mike Goodwin: The opportunity to work and learn in Africa is etched in my mind as one of the central highlights of my surgical  residency, and indeed, my professional life to date.  In my fourth year of residency I had the amazing privilege of spending three months on a clinical elective working with a General Surgeon at a mission hospital in rural Zambia.  The hospital was situated on the banks of the Zambezi River at the edge of the Kalahari desert and I witnessed many extremes while there: extremes of heat, extremes of surgical working conditions, and extremes of poverty that wreak such incredible havoc on a population’s health.

At the same time I witnessed extremes of hope: the resilience and pride of the Zambians I met, the heroic efforts of the expatriate staff and friendships made with them, and watching what a difference even basic surgical services can do to avert needless death and disability from obstructed labour, injuries or severe infections.  My experience was very general and included exposure to most surgical specialties as well as anesthesia, pediatrics and tropical medicine.  To further my education in the latter topics I also took in a course offered at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine in England that led to a Diploma in Tropical Medicine and Hygiene.

To those interested I would say that organizing an elective overseas and working/living abroad in a low-resource setting is not easy.  But it is incredibly rewarding and will help prepare you to engage in surgical initiatives in global health in the future.

Global Health - Mike GoodwinVanessa Fawcett: During my 3rd year I was given the opportunity to get involved in a violence and injury control project in South Africa.  The work was a collaboration between several members of the VGH Department of Trauma, the SFU Department of Geography, as well as Trauma Surgeons and Public Health specialists in Cape Town.

Our team has chosen to focus on violence and injury in low-resource settings, and as a basis we have been setting up an injury surveillance system in Cape Town.  This surveillance program has included GIS mapping of injury sites, which has been achieved using Web 2.0 technologies.   Data collected from this surveillance system will then be used to plan and evaluate further violence and injury prevention strategies.

Since I started work on this project I have travelled to Cape Town twice for field work, as well as attended team meetings in Geneva and Boston.  I have met other professionals in this area of study from around the world, including representatives from the WHO.  This research also led me to complete a Master of Public Health at Harvard in my 4th year, which was an unforgettable experience.  My work on this project is continuing, and hopefully will soon include efforts to combat the effects of alcohol as a factor in interpersonal violence.

Surgical Experience in the Philippines

July 27, 2010

GO-MED is a charitable organization based in the Lower Mainland dedicated to performing charity surgery overseas. So far missions have been restricted to Baguio in the Philippines. In January 2010, over a 2 week period we performed 78 operations including cholecystectomy, hernia repair, mastectomy, and a variety of gynaecologic procedures.

Another mission is planned for Jan/Feb of 2011 to the same hospital where we plan to perform the same types of surgery as well as thyroidectomy.

Baguio is a regional referral center and trauma hospital affiliated with undergraduate and post graduate trainees. Part of GO-MED’s mandate is education and the local trainees are exposed to  the operations we perform..

In March of this year we sponsored a newly trained surgeon from Baguio to come back to Vancouver and learn laparoscopic surgery.

We would like to bring a UBC general surgery resident on the 2011 mission to spend time with the local trainees and gain some exposure to surgery overseas. The resident will also spend time with the mission surgeons as we perform our surgery.

There is no funding available for the trip, residents will be expected to pay their own expenses.

For more information contact Peter Blair at 778 999 4963 or


Branch for International Surgical Care

G. Blair and M. LangerThe Branch’s activities over the recent past years have included:
  • Establishing a unique, accredited graduate level Certificate in Global Surgical Care. Requirements for the Certificate consist of the three novel Branch courses Surgery 510 – “Surgical Care in International Health”, Surgery 512 – “Global Disability, A Surgical Care Mandate”, and Surgery 514 – “Surgical Care in Humanitarian Disaster Response”, combined with School of Population and Public Health course SPPH 540 “Program Planning & Evaluation”;
  • Creation of Masters in Global Surgical Care. With the creation of three further SURG online courses and the modification of existing courses within SPPH, the Masters program is planned to roll out September 2017.
  • Offering two global research scholarships for residents, this year one in each of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery and Orthopedics;
  • Continuing research and national support for Spine Disease in Ethiopia, and Trauma care development in partnership with the Gondar Medical Centre in Ethiopia.
  • Establishing global partnerships for faculty involvement in surgical-care training and education through signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between Canadian Red Cross, McGill and UBC. This will involve opportunities for training, deployment and research for both faculty and residents in the domain of humanitarian response to global crises.

Visit us online for more information on the Branch for International Surgical Care