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April 2015

Surgical Missions: The View From the Other Side

Author Affiliations
  • 1Human Resources for Health Program, Kigali City, Kigali, Rwanda
  • 2Division of Trauma and Emergency General Surgery, University of Virginia School of Medicine, Charlottesville
  • 3Division of Trauma and Acute Surgical Care, Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, Lebanon, New Hampshire
  • 4Center for Surgery and Public Health, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts
JAMA Surg. 2015;150(4):289-290. doi:10.1001/jamasurg.2014.2262

Surgical missions, usually short-term (1-2 weeks) trips from high-income countries to low- and middle-income countries (LMICs), have seen an unprecedented increase. Much has been written about these mission trips from the perspective of the surgeons from high-income countries. However, the voice of local surgeons and staff is predictably silent.

We are 2 surgeons trained in the United States working as local faculty in a Rwandan tertiary referral hospital for the past 1 to 2 years. We came to help strengthen the health care workforce via education1 and discovered ourselves integrated into the local faculty. We experience the same challenges, frustrations, and successes as our local colleagues on a daily basis. We therefore offer our unique perspective on the effect of short-term surgical missions in low-resource settings and offer suggestions to improve their effectiveness, relevance, and sustainability.

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