I taught a non-MD to do brain surgery. This radical approach could solve the global surgeon shortage
Thursday, April 20, 2017
One of the world’s most pressing global health stories has long been hiding in plain sight — the devastating shortage of surgeons in many countries around the world.
All told, roughly 5 billion people lack access to safe and affordable surgery and anesthesia; about 17 million people a year die because of it. These are pregnant women having birth complications that a simple caesarean section section could fix. They are fathers who bring their children to hospitals only to find that no doctors have the skills to save their sons and daughters. Or they are families that simply can’t get to a surgeon hours or miles away.
The issue requires the sense of urgency that we have given to communicable diseases. Five million people a year die from traumatic injuries alone, a significant portion of which could have been averted had they been taken to skilled surgeons.
I went to Tanzania after finishing a cerebrovascular fellowship at Harvard Medical School, the end of a long tunnel of training that gave me skills to do the most demanding operations in neurosurgery. I was exhausted and needed a six-month break to take stock of my life and career. I wasn’t on a mission to save others.
- Health Care