New Academic Global Surgery Fellowship will support surgical systems and skills in Hawassa, Ethiopia

CHICAGO (August 9, 2022): More than 5 billion people worldwide lack access to safe surgical and anesthesia care, resulting in increased mortality rates and post-surgical complications. To meet the challenges posed by this critical global health issue, the American College of Surgeons (ACS) has partnered with three academic health systems to develop a new Academic Global Surgery Fellowship to address surgical disparities in underserved populations.

The American College of Surgeons Operation Giving Back (ACS OGB) program, together with the University of Utah Center for Global Surgery, the Program for Global Surgery at Virginia Commonwealth University, and Hawassa University College of Medicine and Health Sciences, will commit their distinctive capabilities to launch and support the fellowship program.

The fellowship program, which begins this summer, will build upon the efforts of an existing training program established between the ACS OGB program and the Hawassa University College of Medicine and Health Sciences, located in the College of Surgeons of East, Central, and Southern Africa (COSECSA) region. Since 2018, that program has focused on building surgical services, clinical care, quality improvement programs, and research at Hawassa University Hospital, a 480-bed referral hospital in Hawassa, Ethiopia that serves a population of more than 18 million people.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the research workgroup for the Hawassa Hub – one of ACS OGB’s training programs consisting of Hawassa University faculty and members of U.S. consortia schools – organized virtual training activities and discussions on ways to improve surgical research in Hawassa. The Academic Global Surgery Fellowship program will accelerate further all efforts by fostering interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary collaborations centered on surgical training, research, and education.

Each year, fellows will be selected from either the University of Utah or Virginia Commonwealth University for a one-year appointment. Fellows will facilitate research, conduct educational and quality improvement programs, disseminate results and data, create a mentoring relationship, and increase academic output at Hawassa University Hospital. To build lasting partnerships and produce impactful research, fellows will travel to Hawassa for three to six months over the course of the fellowship and they also will be invited to participate in advocacy campaigns. Their research will be presented at related conferences and will be documented in a final year-end report.

“This fellowship program will provide the next generation of surgeons with the opportunity to directly engage in research and quality improvement work at one of our leading training hubs in Hawassa, Ethiopia,” said Girma Tefera, MD, FACS, Director of ACS OGB. “Fellows will conduct robust research in support of our long-term mission to reduce health disparities and improve the continuum of care for surgical patients.”

Anteneh Gadisa, MD, FCS-ECSA, FACS, chief executive director, Hawassa University College of Medicine and Health Sciences, notes that the program will add meaningful depth to an already productive collaboration between Hawassa University and partner universities. “It will create an opportunity both for the fellow and Hawassa faculty to learn from each other and work on selected projects, thereby helping to bring the intended changes in the clinical, academic, and research activities at Hawassa University,” he said.

By understanding the challenges in surgical education and clinical care in Ethiopia and collectively developing, implementing, and analyzing actions, the program will “produce measurable and sustainable impact in health care,” added Edgar Bruck Rodas, MD, FACS, an associate professor in the division of acute care surgical services at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) and director of the VCU Program for Global Surgery.

Sudha P. Jayaraman, MD, MSc, FACS, a professor of surgery and director of the University of Utah Center for Global Surgery, has witnessed firsthand how research and effective programming can help reduce global health disparities. Her work on trauma epidemiology and systems development in East Africa has focused on addressing disparities in trauma mortality. For Dr. Jayaraman, the fellowship program fills an acute need in reducing global health surgical disparities and offers fellows an important steppingstone in their careers as surgeons.

“We look forward to helping participants learn the fundamentals of surgical systems across resource settings, providing strong mentorship across institutions, and preparing them to develop impactful careers in academic global surgery,” she said.

For more information about the fellowship and related programs, please visit ACS Operation Giving Back.

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About the American College of Surgeons

The American College of Surgeons is a scientific and educational organization of surgeons that was founded in 1913 to raise the standards of surgical practice and improve the quality of care for all surgical patients. The College is dedicated to the ethical and competent practice of surgery. Its achievements have significantly influenced the course of scientific surgery in America and have established it as an important advocate for all surgical patients. The College has more than 84,000 members and is the largest organization of surgeons in the world. “FACS” designates that a surgeon is a Fellow of the American College of Surgeons.