Global Surgery at European Federation Congress of International College of Surgeons : Is surgery a priority in the global health agenda?

“People in need must have access to skilled surgical care at the first-line referral hospitals. Yet the vast majority of the world’s population has no access whatsoever to skilled surgical care and little is being done to find a solution.” Dr. Mahler, the Director-General of the WHO,1980, XXII Biennial World Congress of the International College of Surgeons


After 34 years:

–      1 operation per every 25 people [1]

–      the number of operations are 7x greater than HIV Infections [2]

–      11% of the global burden of diseases are from conditions that require surgery [3]

–      the poorest 34,8% of the world’s population receive only 3,5% of all surgery [4]

–      2 billion people have no access to surgical care (low estimate) [3]

–      287000 women died due to pregnancy or childbirth-related complications in 2010 – many of them surgically treatable [3]


Safe Surgery and Anesthesia were not even fully included in the UN Millennnium Development Goals and have been a neglected field in many health systems and global health, also because of common misconceptions. [6]



The role of IFMSA in Global Surgery Promotion is significant and it is increasing recently. The IFMSA urges medical students to become aware and act on the issue of inequitable access to surgical care worldwide. [7]


The IFMSA working group (I.Di Salvo LORMA ,W.Wanjau LWHO, W.Cordoba SCOPE RA Americas, R. Ologunde co-founding director of the Medsin-UK national working group on global surgery, H. Holmer IFMSA Sweden and Paul Farmer Global Surgery Research Associate) started working after IFMSA GA August Meeting 2013 in Santiago, Chile. Since then, sessions have been organized about this issue at Regional Meetings in Africa, PAMSA and EMR and the 63rd General Assembly, where the IFMSA Policy Statement Access to Safe Surgery and Anesthesia was adopted.

On April 3rd ,the FMSA partecipated in the International College of Surgeons European Congress, in Thessaloniki, to a session on Challenges in Medical education for the future surgeon, an International Perspective chaired by the ICS President Elect Professor Yik-Hong Ho, Pr. Tsoulfas and Ivana Di Salvo. This presentation was followed by an intervention by Dr.A.Veizis, Doctors without Borders, who highlighted and confirmed how education and trainings are fundamental components of international surgery.

Medical missions have played and continue to play an essential role in providing care in many situations. Nevertheless they cannot substitute for a long-term investment in local health infrastructure and staff training that would allow low- and middle-income countries to develop their own long-term surgical capacity. [6]


Ivana Di Salvo attended the Congress together with A.Panagiotopoulou (NOME HelMSIC),M.Kourklido (HelMSIC VPE) and A. Huybrechts (BeMSA). As stated in the aforementioned IFMSA Policy Statement on Global Surgery, we as medical students see ourselves as important actors in raising awareness about global surgery and advocating for equitable access to safe surgery for all, both within the IFMSA in the general population of our respective countries and globally. To work toward this goal, a Permanent Small Working Group on Global Surgery has been created and starts working this week.


Ivana Di Salvo

Liaison Officer to Research and Medical Associations


[1] WHO Safe Surgery Saves Lives

[2] Global surgery matters: Sherry Wren at TEDxStanford

[3] Chapter 67 Surgery Haile T. Debas, Richard Gosselin, Colin McCord,

and Amardeep Thind

[4] An estimation of the global volume of surgery: a modelling strategy based on available data Thomas G Weiser, Scott E Regenbogen, Katherine D Thompson, Alex B Haynes, Stuart R Lipsitz, William R Berry, Atul A Gawande


[6] Jin Yung Bae a, Reinou S Groen b & Adam L Kushner c Bulletin of the World Health Organization 2011;89:394-394. doi: 10.2471/BLT.11.088229

[7] IFMSA Policy Statement Access to Safe Surgery and Anaesthesia for All approved at 63rd IFMSA General Assembly MM4 Hammament, Tunisia



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