Surgery and Inequalities

Where Surgery, Global Health and Public Intersect

Inequalities in healthcare dramatically impact individuals and populations. On a global scale, over two billion people have limited access to even the most basic surgical care. This is very troubling in light of the fact that over 10% of the global burden of disease is surgical and the poorest third of humanity receive less than 3.5% of the surgical care.  

Health disparities are not limited to international settings – here in the United States, surgical diseases such as obesity, cancer and trauma are significant public health issues. These challenges disproportionally affect our most vulnerable populations and access to care is similarly limited. This triad of high disease burden, poor access and disparity has spurred an evolving interest among surgeons, educators and health delivery researchers to integrate concepts of population health with surgical care.

OHSU surgeons have an active interest in community health, both globally and locally. Faculty have traveled to Haiti and Uganda, as well as developed educational experiences for OHSU surgery residents in Tanzania and Haiti. A public health masters program has begun in conjunction with the University of Cape Town, South Africa and faculty surgeons are actively working to improve rural surgical care right here in Oregon.

The Surgery and Inequalities course will introduce 1st and 2nd year medical students to the critical role that surgery can play in reducing health inequalities. Discussion will include the ethics of global volunteerism, social determinants of health, governmental policy, and the World Health Organization’s Emergency and Essential Surgery program. Several case studies of war time, the developing world, and disaster surgical care will be examined. Sessions will be led by guest speakers, speaker panels, and student-facilitated journal clubs with an online response component.