Problem: An estimated two billion people worldwide lack access to adequate surgical care. Addressing surgical disparities requires both immediate relief efforts and long-term investments to improve access to care and surgical outcomes, train the next generation of surgical professionals, and expand the breadth of formative research in the field. While models exist for establishing short-term surgical missions in low- and middle-income countries, far less focus has been placed on models for multi-institutional partnerships that support the development of sustainable solutions.
Approach: In 2011, the Global Surgery Partnership (GSP) was founded by an established children's hospital (Children's Hospital Los Angeles), an academic medical center (University of Southern California), and a nonprofit organization (Operation Smile) to build oral cleft surgical capacity in resource-poor settings through education, research, and service.
Outcomes: Leveraging the strengths of each partner, the GSP supports three global health education programs for public health graduate students and surgical residents, including the Tsao Fellowship in Global Health; has initiated two international research projects on cleft lip and palate epidemiology; and has built upon Operation Smile's service provision. As of January 2015, Tsao fellows had operated on over 600 patients during 13 missions in countries including China, Vietnam, Mexico, and India.
Next steps: The GSP plans to conduct a formal evaluation and then to expand its programs. The GSP encourages other global health organizations and academic and medical institutions to engage with each other. The partnership described here provides a basic model for structuring collaborations in the global health arena.