Surgical Volunteerism as an Extension of Modern Hospital: Serving One Patient at Time and Building Bridges

  • Rifat LatifiEmail author


Surgical volunteer missions (SVMs) have become popular and are safe and valuable in lessening the burden of surgical disease globally when performed in an organized fashion and with continuity of care. However, there is need for standardization of surgical care provided during SVMs and creation of a worldwide database of all SVMs. Surgeons embarking on these missions must understand their intricacies, and operating is perhaps the easiest of the all tasks involved in SVMs. In this chapter, some outcomes and organizational issues of SVMs will be discussed.


Surgical volunteer missions Operation Giving Back Developing countries Global health Medical geography General surgery Gynecology Telemedicine 


  1. 1.
    Meara JG, Leather AJM, Hagander L, et al. Global Surgery 2030: evidence and solutions for achieving health, welfare, and economic development. Lancet. 2015;386(9993):569–624.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. 2.
    Alkire BC, Raykar NP, Shrime MG, et al. Global access to surgical care: a modelling study. Lancet Glob Health. 2015;3(6):e316–e23.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. 3.
    Funk LM, Weiser TG, Berry WR, et al. Global operating theatre distribution and pulse oximetry supply: an estimation from reported data. Lancet. 2010;376:1055–61.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. 4.
    Casey KM. The global impact of surgical volunteerism. Surg Clin North Am. 2007;87(4):949–60.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. 5.
    Wallen TJ, Arnaoutakis GJ, Blenden R, Soto R. Programmatic changes to reduce mortality and morbidity in humanitarian congenital cardiac surgery. World J Pediatr Congenit Heart Surg. 2018;9(1):47–53.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. 6.
    Rapp DE, Colhoun A, Morin J, Bradford TJ. Assessment of communication technology and post-operative telephone surveillance during global urology mission. BMC Res Notes. 2018;11(1):149.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. 7.
    Walker ME, Chuang C, Moores CR, et al. The hand surgeon consultation improves patient knowledge in a hand surgery mission to Honduras. J Hand Surg Asian Pac Vol. 2018;23(1):11–7.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. 8.
    Latifi R, Mora F, Bekteshi F, Rivera R. Preoperative telemedicine evaluation of surgical mission patients: should we use it routinely? Bull Am Coll Surg. 2014;99(1):17–23.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  9. 9.
    Brown DA, Ferrill MJ. Planning a pharmacy-led medical mission trip, part 1: focus on medication acquisition. Ann Pharmacother. 2012;46(5):751–9.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. 10.
    Kobayashi MA. Evolution of a triage and flow process during a joint American-Chinese medical mission in Dali, Yunnan, China. J Emerg Nurs. 2011;37(4):394–8.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. 11.
    Naujokas A. Raising the quality of care during medical missions: a survey to assess the need for clinical and anatomic pathology services in international medical missions. Arch Pathol Lab Med. 2013;137:637–41.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. 12.
    Hasbun Avalos O, Pennington K, Osterberg L. Revolutionizing volunteer interpreter services: an evaluation of an innovative medical interpreter education program. J Gen Intern Med. 2013;28(12):1589–95.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. 13.
    Nguah S. Ethical aspects of arranging local medical collaboration and care. J Clin Ethics. 2014;25(4):314–6.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  14. 14.
    American College of Surgeons. Home page. Retieved from:
  15. 15.
    Latifi R, et al. Outcomes of 1,327 Patients Operated On Through Twelve Multispecialty Surgical Volunteerism Missions and Challenges that Every Volunteer Surgeon.Google Scholar
  16. 16.
    Eyal N. Pediatric heart surgery in Ghana: three ethical questions. J Clin Ethics. 2014;25(4):317–22.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  17. 17.
    Hollier LH Jr, Sharabi SE, Koshy JC, Schafer ME, O’Young J, Flood TW. Surgical mission (not) impossible–now what? J Craniofac Surg. 2010;21(5):1488–92.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. 18.
    MacIntosh RB, Herman LT, Shivapuja PK, Echeverri-Arguello RC. Volunteer cleft surgery in Colombia: an 18-year perspective. J Oral Maxillofac Surg. 2013;71(10):1742–51.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. 19.
    Chen AT, Pedtke A, Kobs JK, Edwards GS Jr, Coughlin RR, Gosselin RA. Volunteer orthopedic surgical trips in Nicaragua: a cost-effectiveness evaluation. World J Surg. 2012;36(12):2802–8.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. 20.
    Davis MC, Than KD, Garton HJ. Cost effectiveness of a short-term pediatric neurosurgical brigade to Guatemala. World Neurosurg. 2014;82(6):974–9.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. 21.
    Schillcutt SC, Clarke M, Kingsnorth A. Cost-effectiveness of groin hernia surgery in the Western Region of Ghana. Arch Surg. 2010;145(10):954–61.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. 22.
    Shillcutt SD, Sanders DL, Teresa Butron-Vila M, Kingsnorth AN. Cost-effectiveness of inguinal hernia surgery in northwestern Ecuador. World J Surg. 2013;37(1):32–41.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. 23.
    Chao TE, Sharma K, Mandigo M, Hagander L, Resch SC, Weiser TG, et al. Cost-effectiveness of surgery and its policy implications for global health: a systematic review and analysis. Lancet Glob Health. 2014;2(6):e334–e45.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. 24.
    Shrime M, Sleemi A, Ravilla T. Charitable platforms in global surgery: a systematic review of their effectiveness, cost-effectiveness, sustainability, and role training. World J Surg. 2015;39:10–20.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. 25.
    Dempsey KE, Ghazinouri R, Diez D, Alcantara L, Beagan C, Aggouras B, Hoagland M, Thornhill TS, Katz JN. Enhancing the quality of international orthopedic medical mission trips using the blue distinction criteria for knee and hip replacement centers. BMC Musculoskelet Disord. 2013;14(275):1–16.Google Scholar
  26. 26.
    Precious DS. Important pillars of charity cleft surgery: the avoidance of “safari surgery”. Oral Surg Oral Med Oral Pathol Oral Radiol. 2014;117(4):395–6.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. 27.
    Chu KM, Trelles M, Ford NP. Quality of care in humanitarian surgery. World J Surg. 2011;35(6):1169–72; discussion 73–4.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. 28.
    Holt G. Ethical conduct of humanitarian medical missions: I. Informed consent. Arch Facial Plast Surg. 2012;14(3):215–7.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  29. 29.
    Campbell A, Sullivan M, Sherman R, Magee WP. The medical mission and modern cultural competency training. J Am Coll Surg. 2011;212(1):124–9.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. 30.
    Maki J, Qualls M, White B, Kleefield S, Crone R. Health impact assessment and short-term medical missions: a methods study to evaluate quality of care. BMC Health Serv Res. 2008;8:121.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. 31.
    Aliu O, Corlew SD, Heisler ME, Pannucci CJ, Chung KC. Building surgical capacity in low-resource countries: a qualitative analysis of task shifting from surgeon volunteers’ perspectives. Ann Plast Surg. 2014;72(1):108–12.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. 32.
    Holt G. Ethical conduct of humanitarian medical missions: II. Use of photographic images. Arch Facial Plast Surg. 2012;14(4):295–6.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. 33.
    Brown DB, Brown DL, Yocum CK. Planning a pharmacy-led medical mission trip, part 2: servant leadership and team dynamics. Ann Pharmacother. 2012;46:895–900.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. 34.
    Sundstrom E, De Meuse KP, Futrell D. Work teams: applications and effectiveness. Am Psychol. 1990;45(2):120–33.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. 35.
    Friedman DB, Improving Team DL. Structure and communication: a key to hospital efficiency. Arch Surg. 2004;139:1194–998.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. 36.
    Vashdi DR, Bamberger PA, Erez M, Weiss-Meilik A. Briefing-debriefing: using a reflexive organizational learning model from the military to enhance the performance of surgical teams. Hum Resour Manag. 2007;46(1):115–42.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. 37.
    Schwartz RW, Pogge C. Physician leadership: essential skills in a changing environment. Am J Surg. 2000;180:187–92.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. 38.
    Scarnati JT. On becoming a team player. Team Perform Manag Int J. 2001;7(1/2):5–10.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. 39.
    Dilger H. Claiming territory: medical mission, interreligious revivalism, and the spatialization of health interventions in urban Tanzania. Med Anthropol. 2014;33(1):52–67.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. 40.
    Eckenwiler L, Hunt M. Counterterrorism, ethics, and global health. Hast Cent Rep. 2014;44(3):12–3.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. 41.
    Karlsrud J, Felix da Costa D. Invitation withdrawn: humanitarian action, United Nations peacekeeping, and state sovereignty in Chad. Disasters. 2013;37(Suppl 2):S171–87.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. 42.
    Mettner J. Staying safe overseas. Minn Med. 2014;97(10):12–4.Google Scholar
  43. 43.
    Butler M, Drum E, Evans FM, et al. Guidelines and checklists for short-term missions in global pediatric surgery: recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics Delivery of Surgical Care Global Health Subcommittee, American Pediatric Surgical Association Global Pediatric Surgery Committee, Society for Pediatric Anesthesia Committee on International Education and Service, and American Pediatric Surgical Nurses Association, Inc. Global Health Special Interest Group. J Pediatr Surg. 2018;53(4):828–36. Epub 2017 Nov 15.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  44. 44.
    World Helath Organization (WHO). WHO condemns rising violence against health care workers, patients. Retrieved from: Accessed 17 June 2018.
  45. 45.
    Klibanoff E. Medical workers in conflict zones have never faced greater risks. December 16th, 2014. Retrieved from: Accessed 17 June 2018. World Health Organization (WHO). Attacks on Health Care DASHBOARD. Retrieved from: Accessed 17 June 2018.
  46. 46.
    World Health Organization (WHO). Attacks on health care. Retrieved from:
  47. 47.
    Giannou C. A volunteer surgeon in war zones: experience of 35 years and a call to action. Current Trauma Rep. 2017;3(1):75–7.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.New York Medical College, School of Medicine, Department of Surgery and Westchester Medical CenterValhallaUSA

Personalised recommendations