Injury and acute surgical disease represent a leading cause of global morbidity and mortality. In fact, there are more annual injury-related deaths than from HIV, malaria and tuberculosis combined. Ninety percent of these deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries and commonly affect the most productive portion of the population; namely, those between the ages of 5-44. For example, in the Gambia, 85% of children will require surgical attention by the age of 15, with almost 50% of those being secondary to injuries.
These statistics result in a significant social and economic burden on the affected societies. It is only in recent years, that the global health community has begun to recognize the extent of this problem marked by the publication of Global Burden of Diseaseby the World Health Organization and more recently the publications by the Lancet Commission on Global Surgery. Nonetheless, injury and acute surgical disease remain a mostly under-appreciated problem that is often treatable and preventable.
Co-founded by trauma surgeons Dan Deckelbaumand Tarek Razek, the Centre for Global Surgery serves several regions in Africa, Latin America and the Middle East.
Global surgery initiatives have long been a strong focus for McGill University Health Centre (MUHC) faculty. Dr. Peter McLean spent a significant amount of time in Ethiopia working with the Surgical Amendment of the McGill Ethiopia Community Health Project and went to be one of the founding members of the Canadian Network for International Surgery (CNIS) alongside Dr. Ron Lett. Dr. Antoine Loutfi, a previous board member of the CNIS, spent three years in Ethiopia teaching essential surgical skills to general practitioners. Thanks to an understanding of the depth of surgical issues in low- and middle-income nations, senior faculty at the MUHC continue to spearhead projects that allow for the growth of ideas and initiatives similar to those mentioned above. These efforts are made possible through the continued support of the Chair of Surgery, Dr. Gerald Fried, and the president of the MUHC foundation, Ronald Collett.
In parallel to this strong activity taking place at the MUHC, two pediatric surgeons, Dr. Jean-Martin Laberge and Dr. Sherif Emil, also became involved in global surgery efforts through short-term surgical and capacity-building efforts in Africa. In 2014, McGill alumni Dr. Dan Poenaru returned to the Montreal Children’s Hospital (MCH) following a decade-long academic surgical volunteering career in East Africa. Dr. Poenaru’s return marked the creation of a global surgical lab at the MCH and in collaboration with his colleagues Dr. Laberge and Dr. Emil, initiated the first ever research fellowship in global pediatric surgery.