By: Sarah Lombardo, Duke University
In Rwanda, 47 surgeons and 12 anesthesiologists must struggle to meet the surgical needs of its 11.3 million citizens. I am confident that my medical school alone, one of six in a US city of 1.6 million, employs a surgical physician workforce in excess of 59 individuals.
The disparities in the availability of surgical care and training took center stage today during a late morning session of 2011 Global Health Conference in Montreal. Chaired by Dr. Haile Debas of UCSF, a diverse panel of physician and student researchers outlined the importance of surgery as a global public health priority. Dr. Debas began the discussion by describing the global burden of surgical disease (11% of worldwide annual DALYs), before moving into a thoughtful summary of the barriers to improving surgical access and quality of care (brain drain, urban/rural mal-distribution, budgetary and infrastructure shortfalls, lack of administrative capacity, etc.).
Successive presentations by Drs. Kayibanda and Jani described fruitful yet limited efforts in training programs aimed at increasing surgical capacity in Africa. Dr. Jani offered the most poignant point of the session, drawing attention to a list of highly technical advanced surgical training programs currently ongoing in Africa, and asking the audience to consider the true value of minimally invasive neurosurgery to those 11.3 million Rwandans.