War, Politics, Pandemic, and a Failed Assassination: 117 Years of World Congresses of Surgery

I am fascinated by history. As an undergraduate English major, I loved poetry, novels, and short stories. As a 20-year old, I thought history dull, dim, and irrelevant. Oh, how wrong I was! The drama created by real-life stories are far more unpredictable and riveting than fiction. In holding 48 previous world congresses, the International Society of Surgery/Société Internationale de Chirurgie (ISS/SIC) has participated in a few stories I’d like to share with you.

Many of the stories of the ISS/SIC are a little like the story of Switzerland, the home of our beloved society, an oasis of neutrality surrounded by a chaotic world, punctuated with pandemics, wars, and global politics. Our Swiss leaders, whether their last names were deQuervain, Nissen, Allgower, Harder, or Givel, have served as neutral intermediaries in many critical negotiations over the years, holding this society together against strong global currents and nationalistic ideology which—in some circumstances—led to major wars between nations and created rifts between close professional friends within our society. Yes, there was even an attempted assassination of a world leader at a World Congress of Surgery, one that would have changed the 20th century, had it been successful. So hang on and bear with me for a few minutes.

Let’s start 130 years ago, here in this most beautiful city of Vienna. Most of you know of Theodor Billroth, the patriarch of Viennese surgery depicted in the famous painting by Adalbert Seligmann (Fig. 1). Billroth attracted surgeons from around the world to his operating theater, many of whom would later become surgical giants in their home countries. From the USA, William Stewart Halstead spent time in Billroth’s theater, also appearing in the Seligmann painting to the left of the cabinet of instruments. Halsted returned to Baltimore and—with William Osler—started the first university-based program of medical education in the USA, at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore, Maryland.

Additionally, Billroth was a good friend of Johannes Brahms, whose music you heard as you came in this morning. I thought about focusing my address on music and medicine, but would a violin concerto in d major capture your attention as well as the story an Irishwoman attempting the assassination of a tyrant? Or waves of global epidemics and pandemics forcing the cancelation of two world congresses in Asia, 16 years apart? Or controversies over which surgeons from which countries would be invited to the World Congress, the result of two great 20th century world wars.

With apologies to our Viennese hosts, the story of the ISS/SIC does not start in Vienna, and Billroth wasn’t even a member of our society. Nonetheless, Vienna has played an important role in our history, never so important as today, when Albert Tuchmann and a dedicated team from the ISS/SIC office (thank you Mike, Chris, Laurie, and Denise!) committed to bringing us back together in this lovely city, our first in person meeting since 2019, in Krakow. It was only 3 years ago, but so much has happened. It’s hard to remember.

Much of the history that I will be recounting here comes from a book by Dorothea Liebermann-Meffert [1] (Fig. 2). If you want to learn more of the history, the ISS/SIC office still has copies of Dr Liebermann-Meffert’s book, also available through our website. The more recent history, in the 21st century, has been collected and collated by our former secretary general, Felix Harder and former executive director, Victor Bertschi of Basel. Many of the early papers and letters are in the hands of Professor Ulrich Tröhler and Professor Hubert Steinke of Berne. To them, I owe a great debt of gratitude for helping me with this address.

Embracing robotic surgery in low- and middle-income countries: Potential benefits, challenges, and scope in the future

Robotic surgery has applications in many medical specialties, including urology, general surgery, and surgical oncology. In the context of a widespread resource and personnel shortage in Low- and Middle-Income Countries(LMICs), the use of robotics in surgery may help to reduce physician burnout, surgical site infections, and hospital stays. However, a lack of haptic feedback and potential socioeconomic factors such as high implementation costs and a lack of trained personnel may limit its accessibility and application. Specific improvements focused on improved financial and technical support to LMICs can help improve access and have the potential to transform the surgical experience for both surgeons and patients in LMICs. This review focuses on the evolution of robotic surgery, with an emphasis on challenges and recommendations to facilitate wider implementation and improved patient outcomes.

Global Learning for Health Equity: A Literature Review

Background: In high income countries struggling with escalating health care costs and persistent lack of equity, there is growing interest in searching for innovative solutions developed outside national borders, particularly in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). Engaging with global ideas to apply them to local health equity challenges is becoming increasingly recognized as an approach to shift the health equity landscape in the United States (US) in a significant way. No single name or set of practices yet defines the process of identifying LMIC interventions for adaptation; implementing interventions in high-income countries (HIC) settings; or evaluating the implementation of such projects.

Objectives: This paper presents a review of the literature describing the practice of adapting global ideas for use in the US, particularly in the area of health equity. Specifically, the authors sought to examine; (i) the literature that advocates for, or describes, adaption of health-related innovations from LMICs to HICs, both generally and for health equity specifically, and (ii) implementation practices, strategies, and evidence-based outcomes in this field, generally and in the area of health equity specifically. The authors also propose terminology and a definition to describe the practice.

Methods: The literature search included two main concepts: global learning and health equity (using these and related terms). The search consisted of text-words and database-specific terminology (e.g., MeSH, Emtree) using PubMed, Embase (Elsevier), CINAHL (Ebsco), and Scopus in March 2021. The authors also contacted relevant experts to identify grey literature. Identified sources were categorized according to theme to facilitate analysis. In addition, five key interviews with experts engaged with global ideas to promote health equity in the United States were conducted to develop additional data.

Results: The literature review yielded over ninety (n = 92) sources relating to the adaptation of global ideas from low resource to higher resource settings to promote health equity (and related concepts). Identified sources range from those providing general commentaries about the value of seeking health-related innovations outside the US border to sources describing global projects implemented in the US, most without implementation or outcome measures. Other identified sources provide frameworks or guidance to help identify and/or implement global ideas in the US, and some describe the role of the World Health Organization and other international consortia in promoting a global approach to solving domestic health equity and related challenges.

Conclusions: The literature review demonstrates that there are resources and commentary describing potential benefits of identifying and adapting novel global ideas to address health equity in the US, but there is a dearth of implementation and evaluation data. Terminology is required to define and frame the field. Additional research, particularly in the area of implementation science and evidence-based frameworks to support the practice of what we define as ‘global learning’ for health equity, is necessary to advance the practice.

Abortion decision-making process trajectories and determinants in low- and middle-income countries: A mixed-methods systematic review and meta-analysis

About 45.1% of all induced abortions are unsafe and 97% of these occur in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). Women’s abortion decisions may be complex and are influenced by various factors. We aimed to delineate women’s abortion decision-making trajectories and their determinants in LMICs.

We searched Medline, EMBASE, PsychInfo, Global Health, Web of Science, Scopus, IBSS, CINAHL, WHO Global Index Medicus, the Cochrane Library, WHO website, ProQuest, and Google Scholar for primary studies and reports published between January 1, 2000, and February 16, 2021 (updated on June 06, 2022), on induced abortion decision-making trajectories and/or their determinants in LMICs. We excluded studies on spontaneous abortion. Two independent reviewers extracted and assessed quality of each paper. We used “best fit” framework synthesis to synthesise abortion decision-making trajectories and thematic synthesis to synthesise their determinants. We analysed quantitative findings using random effects model. The study protocol is registered with PROSPERO number CRD42021224719.

Of the 6960 articles identified, we included 79 in the systematic review and 14 in the meta-analysis. We identified nine abortion decision-making trajectories: pregnancy awareness, self-reflection, initial abortion decision, disclosure and seeking support, negotiations, final decision, access and information, abortion procedure, and post-abortion experience and care. Determinants of trajectories included three major themes of autonomy in decision-making, access and choice. A meta-analysis of data from 7737 women showed that the proportion of the overall women’s involvement in abortion decision-making was 0.86 (95% CI:0.73–0.95, I2 = 99.5%) and overall partner involvement was 0.48 (95% CI:0.29–0.68, I2 = 99.6%).

Policies and strategies should address women’s perceptions of safe abortion socially, legally, and economically, and where appropriate, involvement of male partners in abortion decision-making processes to facilitate safe abortion. Clinical heterogeneity, in which various studies defined “the final decision-maker” differentially, was a limitation of our study.

Nuffield Department of Population Health DPhil Scholarship for PL, University of Oxford, and the Medical Research Council Career Development Award for MN (Grant Ref: MR/P022030/1).

Management and outcomes of sellar, suprasellar, and parasellar masses in low-and middle- income countries: a scoping review

Background: There are several studies which describe the current management strategies and outcomes of SMs in High-Income Countries (HICs). However, there is little known the situation regarding SMs in Low and Middle-Income Countries (LMICs) apart from studies describing the experience from tertiary centres. With this study, we identified the epidemiology, diagnosis, management, and outcomes of SMs, SSMs, and PSMs in LMICs while reviewing and synthesising the relevant literature. Methods: A systematic review was conducted in accordance with the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Review and Meta-analysis extension for Scoping Review (PRISMA-ScR) guidelines were used to report the findings. MEDLINE, Embase, Global Index Medicus, and African Journals OnLine were the databases of choice. Cases were included if the pathology was related to the sellar, parasellar or suprasellar regions. The dataset was analysed using descriptive statistics via SPSS. Results: We have includedn=16589 patients from 49 LMICs. LMICs with the most studies were in China (n=49, 4.9%). Headache was the most reported symptomn=3995 with a mean of 29.82 cases per study (Range 0–130). Most reported tumour location was the sellar regionn=12933 (85%). Somatotroph adenomas was the most diagnosed pituitary adenoma (n=3297). The most frequently diagnosed non-pituitary adenomatous mass was arachnoid cysts (n=282). Endoscopic approaches were far more utilised compared to microsurgical approaches, n=3418 and n=1730, respectively. Hormonal therapies with Cabergoline were administered in 1700 patients with prolactinoma. Radiosurgery was performed in n=357 patients. The average follow-up duration was 33.26 months. Conclusion: Neuro-oncology and pituitary research in LMICs remains under-reported. Our understanding of the current landscape of the management and outcomes of sellar, suprasellar and parasellar masses show that there is similarity to the management approaches utilised compared to HICs. The surgical outcomes, although largely underreported, were worse in LMICs compared to HICs, highlighting the need for more research and education.

Putting global health high on the agenda of medical schools

In this opinion paper, we reflect on global health and global health education as well as challenges that the coming generation are likely to face. As the field is rapidly changing, it is vital to critically reflect categories of “global south” and “global north” as geographical boundaries, and rather think in terms of inequalities that are present in all countries. Global perspectives on health are useful to analyze structural challenges faced in all health care systems and help understand the diversity of cultures and patients’ concepts of disease. We first discuss burning questions and important challenges in the field and how those challenges are tackled. Rather than going into detail on topical issues, we reflect on approaches and attitudes that we think are important in global health education and present opportunities and challenges for young scholars who are interested in working in this field.

Effective cataract surgical coverage in adults aged 50 years and older: estimates from population-based surveys in 55 countries

Cataract is the leading cause of blindness globally. Effective cataract surgical coverage (eCSC) measures the number of people in a population who have been operated on for cataract, and had a good outcome, as a proportion of all people operated on or requiring surgery. Therefore, eCSC describes service access (ie, cataract surgical coverage, [CSC]) adjusted for quality. The 74th World Health Assembly endorsed a global target for eCSC of a 30-percentage point increase by 2030. To enable monitoring of progress towards this target, we analysed Rapid Assessment of Avoidable Blindness (RAAB) survey data to establish baseline estimates of eCSC and CSC.

In this secondary analysis, we used data from 148 RAAB surveys undertaken in 55 countries (2003–21) to calculate eCSC, CSC, and the relative quality gap (% difference between eCSC and CSC). Eligible studies were any version of the RAAB survey conducted since 2000 with individual participant survey data and census population data for people aged 50 years or older in the sampling area and permission from the study’s principal investigator for use of data. We compared median eCSC between WHO regions and World Bank income strata and calculated the pooled risk difference and risk ratio comparing eCSC in men and women.

Country eCSC estimates ranged from 3·8% (95% CI 2·1–5·5) in Guinea Bissau, 2010, to 70·3% (95% CI 65·8–74·9) in Hungary, 2015, and the relative quality gap from 10·8% (CSC: 65·7%, eCSC: 58·6%) in Argentina, 2013, to 73·4% (CSC: 14·3%, eCSC: 3·8%) in Guinea Bissau, 2010. Median eCSC was highest among high-income countries (60·5% [IQR 55·6–65·4]; n=2 surveys; 2011–15) and lowest among low-income countries (14·8%; [IQR 8·3–20·7]; n=14 surveys; 2005–21). eCSC was higher in men than women (148 studies pooled risk difference 3·2% [95% CI 2·3–4·1] and pooled risk ratio of 1·20 [95% CI 1·15–1·25]).

eCSC varies widely between countries, increases with greater income level, and is higher in men. In pursuit of 2030 targets, many countries, particularly in lower-resource settings, should emphasise quality improvement before increasing access to surgery. Equity must be embedded in efforts to improve access to surgery, with a focus on underserved groups.

Indigo Trust, Peek Vision, and Wellcome Trust.

Managing the Unpredictable: Recommendations to Improve Trainee Safety During Global Health Away Electives

Background: For institutions offering global health programs, the safety of trainees during clinical rotations at international sites is paramount. Current guidelines for global health electives recommend pre-departure training and safety-net resources, yet their advice on managing unanticipated problems is limited.

Objective: This report illustrates critical safety considerations requiring additional guidance for programs and students and highlights approaches that may improve trainee safety while abroad.

Methods: We present a series of five cases adapted from the experiences of students traveling to and from the Yale School of Medicine between the years of 2011–2021. These cases include instances of personal injury, mental health challenges following trauma, sexual harassment, political instability, and natural disaster. For each case, we recommend ways in which programs and their participants may approach the challenges and we highlight issues requiring additional analysis.

Findings: We categorized the types of trainee safety issues into three groups: personal health emergencies, individual-level stressors, and large-scale crises.

Conclusion: Ultimately, we recommend that rather than solely emphasizing a universal policy, programs and trainees should also be educated on the tools and resources available for addressing unexpected emergencies.

Capacity Building During Short-Term Surgical Outreach Trips: A Review of What Guidelines Exist

While short-term surgical outreach trips improve access to care in low- and middle-income countries (LMIC), there is rising concern about their long-term impact. In response, many organizations seek to incorporate capacity building programs into their outreach efforts to help strengthen local health systems. Although leading organizations, like the World Health Organization (WHO), advocate for this approach, uniform guidelines are absent.

We performed a systematic review, using search terms pertaining to capacity building guidelines during short-term surgical outreach trips. We extracted information on authorship, guideline development methodology, and guidelines relating to capacity building. were classified according to the Global-QUEST framework, which outlines seven domains of capacity building on surgical outreach trips. Guideline development methodology frequencies and domain classifications frequencies were calculated; subsequently, guidelines were aggregated to develop a core guideline for each domain.

A total of 35 studies were included. Over 200 individual guidelines were extracted, spanning all seven framework domains. Guidelines were most frequently classified into Coordination and Community Impact domains and least frequently into the Finance domain. Less than half (46%) of studies collaborated with local communities to design the guidelines. Instead, guidelines were predominantly developed through author trip experience.

As short-term surgical trips increase, further work is needed to standardize guidelines, create actionable steps, and promote collaborations in order to promote accountability during short-term surgical outreach trips.

Global healthcare fairness: We should be sharing more, not less, data

The availability of large, deidentified health datasets has enabled significant innovation in using machine learning (ML) to better understand patients and their diseases. However, questions remain regarding the true privacy of this data, patient control over their data, and how we regulate data sharing in a way that that does not encumber progress or further potentiate biases for underrepresented populations. After reviewing the literature on potential reidentifications of patients in publicly available datasets, we argue that the cost—measured in terms of access to future medical innovations and clinical software—of slowing ML progress is too great to limit sharing data through large publicly available databases for concerns of imperfect data anonymization. This cost is especially great for developing countries where the barriers preventing inclusion in such databases will continue to rise, further excluding these populations and increasing existing biases that favor high-income countries. Preventing artificial intelligence’s progress towards precision medicine and sliding back to clinical practice dogma may pose a larger threat than concerns of potential patient reidentification within publicly available datasets. While the risk to patient privacy should be minimized, we believe this risk will never be zero, and society has to determine an acceptable risk threshold below which data sharing can occur—for the benefit of a global medical knowledge system.