World Journal of Surgery

, Volume 34, Issue 5, pp 941–946 | Cite as

Opportunities and Improvisations: A Pediatric Surgeon’s Suggestions for Successful Short-Term Surgical Volunteer Work in Resource-Poor Areas

  • Donald Meier


There is a paucity of trained pediatric surgeons in resource-poor areas, and many children never receive care for debilitating problems that could readily be managed by surgeons with proper training, supplies, and instrumentation. This article, written from the perspective of a surgeon who has been both the recipient of and the provider of volunteer surgical services, is intended to encourage surgeons in technologically advanced locations to volunteer in underserved areas and to assist them in the implementation of such endeavors. Concepts are presented with an emphasis on pediatric surgery, but most are relevant for volunteers in all surgical specialties. Volunteer paradigms include, but are not limited to, the “surgical brigade” model, where a large group of health care professionals take all needed equipment and supplies for the duration of their stint, and the “minimalist” model, where a single volunteer works with local personnel using locally available equipment. For a successful volunteer endeavor the host needs to have a perceived need for the volunteer’s services, and the volunteer must be flexible in adapting to meet overwhelming needs with limited resources. It is suggested that appropriate technology, such as the inexpensive anal stimulator presented herein, should be employed whenever possible. With proper planning, realistic expectations, and a cooperative and helpful attitude, volunteer trips can be rewarding experiences for both volunteers and host physicians and lead to lasting relationships that improve children’s lives globally.


Pediatric Surgeon Anorectal Malformation Underserved Area Anesthesia Provider Local Doctor 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


  1. 1.
    Casey KM (2007) The global impact of surgical volunteerism. Surg Clin North Am 87:949–960CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  2. 2.
    Chu KM (2009) Surgery in rural Zambia: the rewards and challenges of treating patients in a resource-poor setting. Bull Am Coll Surg 94:22–28PubMedGoogle Scholar
  3. 3.
    Duda RB, Hill AG (2007) Surgery in developing countries: should surgery have a role in population-based health care? Bull Am Coll Surg 92:12–18Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Bickler SW, Rode H (2002) Surgical services for children in developing countries. Bull WHO 80:829–835PubMedGoogle Scholar
  5. 5.
    Nwariaku FE (2009) Mind the gap: workforce disparities and global health. J Surg Res 154:204–311CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. 6.
    Farmer PE, Kim JY (2008) Surgery and global health: a view from beyond the OR. World J Surg 32:533–536CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  7. 7.
    Pezzella AT (2006) Volunteerism and humanitarian efforts in surgery. Current Prob Surg 43:837–932Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    Tarpley J, Tarpley M, Meier D et al (2007) Operating in the global theater. Surg Rounds 30:509–518Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    Wolfberg A (2006) Volunteering overseas—lessons from surgical brigades. N Engl J Med 354:443–445CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Société Internationale de Chirurgie 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of SurgeryPaul L. Foster School of Medicine, Texas Tech University, Health Science CenterEl PasoUSA

Personalised recommendations