Impact of a Novel Social Work Program on Access to Tertiary Care

Background: In the movement for global health equity, increased research and funding have not yet addressed a shortage of evidence on effectively implementing context-specific interventions; one unmet need is facilitating access to specialty care within the public health sector in Mexico. Compañeros en Salud has been piloting a novel program, called Right to Healthcare (RTHC), to increase access to specialty care for the rural poor in Chiapas, Mexico. The RTHC program incorporates social work, patient navigation, referrals, direct economic support, and accompaniment for patients.

Objectives: This study evaluates the effectiveness of the RTHC program. Primary outcomes analyzed included acceptance of any referral and attendance of any appointment. Secondary outcomes included acceptance of the first referral and rate of appointment attendance for patients with an accepted referral.

Methods: Using referral process data for the years 2014 to 2019 from a public tertiary care hospital in Chiapas, 91 RTHC patients were matched using 2:1 optimal pair matching with a control cohort balancing covariates of patient age, sex, specialty referred to, level of referring hospital, and municipality.

Findings: RTHC patients were more likely to have had an accepted referral (OR 17.42, 95% CI 3.68 to 414.16) and to have attended an appointment (OR 5.49, 95% CI 2.93 to 11.60) compared to the matched control group. RTHC patients were also more likely to have had their first referral accepted (OR 2.78, 95% CI 1.29 to 6.73). Among patients with an accepted referral, RTHC patients were more likely to have attended an appointment (OR 3.86, 95% CI 1.90 to 8.57).

Conclusions: The results demonstrate that the RTHC model is successful in increasing access to specialty care by both increasing referral acceptance and appointment attendance.

Growing academic global surgery: opportunities for Canadian trainees

Global surgery has seen exponential growth over the past few years, and Canadian trainees’ interest in the field has followed. Global surgery is defined by a commitment to health equity and community partnership. Engagement with its core principles is relevant for all Canadian surgical trainees and offers a perspective into inequities in surgical access and outcomes for patients and communities, both locally and globally. Several opportunities in academic global surgery for trainees have emerged in Canada, but appear to be underutilized. This article highlights existing Canadian global surgery initiatives, including formal postgraduate curricula, research and policy collaborations, trainee networks, advocacy projects, dedicated fellowships, and conferences. We identify areas in which institutions and departments of surgery can better support trainees in exploring each of these categories during training. Canadian trainees’ exposure to global surgery can nurture their roles as future health advocates, communicators, and leaders locally and beyond.

Low-dose diethylstilbestrol for heavily pretreated metastatic castration-resistant prostate cancer

Background:

Diethylstilbestrol (DES) at low doses is effective in metastatic castration resistant prostate cancer (mCRPC), understudied in the context of currently available treatments. We describe the efficacy and tolerability of low doses of DES for patients with heavily pretreated mCRPC.

Material and methods:

Single center retrospective cohort of patients with mCRPC treated with low dose DES between 2005 and 2020.

Results:

Thirty-four patients were evaluated, with a median age of 74 years (range 56-94), and a median of 3 previous treatment lines (range 1-7). 64.7% had received chemotherapy. A biochemical response was achieved in 10/32 patients (31.3%). Median progression free survival was 3.7 months. Median overall survival (OS) was 9.7 months. The most common adverse events were fatigue, gynecomastia, and nausea. Two deaths occurred due to arterial thrombosis.

Conclusions:

Low dose DES remains active in highly pretreated patients, with median PFS comparable to other available treatments. Patient selection is important for treatment safety.

Lessons learnt from emergency medicine services during the COVID-19 pandemic: A case study of India and the United States

India and the United States have both witnessed a high burden of COVID-19 infections since the pandemic was declared in early 2020. However, the COVID-19 restrictions have met with mixed responses in India and the US. Despite recommendations to continue social isolation and personal hygiene measures, India has not been able to curb the rise in daily cases. Our findings demonstrate the difference in the manner by which India and the US differ in their emergency handling of patients. We conducted a thorough review of the existing protocols and data concerning emergency responses in India and the US. The triage and care of suspected COVID-19 positive patients is different across India and the US. We find that there is a shortage of oxygenation, vaccination and other essential supplies in India. Further, the US is able to triage patients through telemedicine and EMS before suspected COVID-19 patients arrive, which is less prevalent in India. Our study identifies the importance of the emergency department (ED) as a critical contributor to the prevention and care of suspected and confirmed COVID-19 patients. Hospitals in India have been struggling to accommodate a huge influx of patients during its second wave with the ED playing a key link in their COVID-19 response.

Application of the research electronic data capture (REDCap) system in a low- and middle income country– experiences, lessons, and challenges

The challenges of reliably collecting, storing, organizing, and analyzing research data are critical in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs), particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa where several healthcare and biomedical research organizations have limited data infrastructure. The Research Electronic Data Capture (REDCap) System has been widely used by many institutions and hospitals in the USA for data collection, entry, and management and could help solve this problem. This study reports on the experiences, challenges, and lessons learned from establishing and applying REDCap for a large US-Nigeria research partnership that includes two sites in Nigeria, (the College of Medicine of the University of Lagos (CMUL) and Jos University Teaching Hospital (JUTH)) and Northwestern University (NU) in Chicago, Illinois in the United States. The largest challenges to this implementation were significant technical obstacles: the lack of REDCap-trained personnel, transient electrical power supply, and slow/ intermittent internet connectivity. However, asynchronous communication and on-site hands-on collaboration between the Nigerian sites and NU led to the successful installation and configuration of REDCap to meet the needs of the Nigerian sites. An example of one lesson learned is the use of Virtual Private Network (VPN) as a solution to poor internet connectivity at one of the sites, and its adoption is underway at the other. Virtual Private Servers (VPS) or shared online hosting were also evaluated and offer alternative solutions. Installing and using REDCap in LMIC institutions for research data management is feasible; however, planning for trained personnel and addressing electrical and internet infrastructural requirements are essential to optimize its use. Building this fundamental research capacity within LMICs across Africa could substantially enhance the potential for more cross-institutional and cross-country collaboration in future research endeavors.

A longitudinal surgical systems strengthening research program for medical students: the exploration of a model for global health education

Background
In response to the staggering global burden of conditions requiring emergency and essential surgery, the development of international surgical system strengthening (SSS) is fundamental to achieving universal, timely, quality, and affordable surgical care. Opportunity exists in identifying optimal collaborative processes that both promote global surgery research and SSS, and include medical students. This study explores an education model to engage students in academic global surgery and SSS via institutional support for longitudinal research.

Objectives
We set out to design a program to align global health education and longitudinal health systems research by creating an education model to engage medical students in academic global surgery and SSS.

Program design and implementation
In 2015, medical schools in the United States and Colombia initiated a collaborative partnership for academic global surgery research and SSS. This included development of two longitudinal academic tracks in global health medical education and academic global surgery, which we differentiated by level of institutional resourcing. Herein is a retrospective evaluation of the first two years of this program by using commonly recognized academic output metrics.

Main achievements
In the first two years of the program, there were 76 total applicants to the two longitudinal tracks. Six of the 16 (37.5%) accepted students selected global surgery faculty as mentors (Acute Care Surgery faculty participating in SSS with Colombia). These global surgery students subsequently spent 24 total working weeks abroad over the two-year period participating in culminating research experiences in SSS. As a quantitative measure of the program’s success, the students collectively produced a total of twenty scholarly pieces in the form of accepted posters, abstracts, podium presentations, and manuscripts in partnership with Colombian research mentors.

Policy implications
The establishment of scholarly global health education and research tracks has afforded our medical students an active role in international SSS through participation in academic global surgery research. We propose that these complementary programs can serve as a model for disseminated education and training of the future global systems-aware surgeon workforce with bidirectional growth in south and north regions with traditionally under-resourced SSS training programs.

Incidence patterns, care continuum and impact of treatment on survival among women with breast cancer in Ghana and the United States

Breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer among women worldwide. Of the five breast cancer subtypes, triple negative breast cancer (TNBC) is the most aggressive subtype. Black women in the US and Ghana are more likely to be diagnosed with TNBC, at young ages and advanced stages. Combining information from Ghana and the US, this project identified the breast cancer care continuum in Ghana, examined the breast cancer incidence patterns in Ghana and the US and assessed the optimal surgical treatment for TNBC. In the first manuscript, we examined how women in Ghana navigate the healthcare system and factors that influence their decisions and ability to seek and access breast cancer care. We interviewed thirty-one women diagnosed with breast cancer in Kumasi, Ghana. Based on the findings from the interviews, we presented a framework showing specific steps in the pathways and how women transition from one step to another. In the second manuscript, we assessed factors explaining the younger age at breast cancer diagnosis among Ghanaian women compared to women in the US. To achieve these aims we analyzed breast cancer data from the Kumasi Cancer Registry, the only population-based cancer registry in Ghana, and compared it to the US Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results (SEER) data. Population age structure, screening and cohort effects explain the younger age at breast cancer diagnosis among women in Ghana In the third manuscript, we examined whether the poor prognosis of TNBC warrants a more aggressive surgical approach and whether there is value in expanded use of radiation therapy among women with TNBC who receive mastectomy. We found that breast conserving surgery followed by radiotherapy is an effective treatment for women with early-stage TNBC. Findings from this dissertation are timely due to the rapidly rising burden of breast cancer in sub-Saharan Africa and persistent disparities in the US.

Ethical Dilemmas in Surgical Mission Trips During the COVID-19 Pandemic

This case is hypothetical and does not involve real patients or actual entities.

A long-running otolaryngology surgical teaching mission to Haiti was postponed in 2020 due to a combination of Haitian travel restrictions and American-based university travel bans during the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. Several months have passed since the postponement of this recurring trip, and the local Haitian ear, nose, and throat (ENT) team has reached out to the international surgical teaching team to express their desire for surgical mission trips to return. The backlog of patients that the local team feels could not be treated without assistance continues to grow.

The COVID-19 vaccine is now available in the United States, and most US-based health care practitioners have been vaccinated, including all medical volunteers involved in this trip. University-based travel bans have also been lifted. Few Haitian health care providers have been vaccinated. Local Haitian travel restrictions are no longer being enforced, and it is legally possible to travel to the island. The international team has obtained enough personal protective equipment (PPE) to run a self-sufficient trip, but local PPE resources remain scarce.

Should the international surgical team restart mission work at this time? If so, what criteria need to be met for humanitarian organizations to provide safe and ethical care in the COVID-19 era when global inequality remains regarding vaccine distribution?

Going Global: Interest in Global Health Among US Otolaryngology Residents

Background: To meet the rising interest in surgical global health, some surgical residency programs offer global health experiences. The level of interest in these programs, however, and their role in residency recruitment and career planning has not been systematically evaluated.

Objective: (1) Define interest in global health among Otolaryngology residents in the USA. (2) Assess engagement of Otolaryngology residencies in global health training. (3) Determine barriers to global health training in residency.

Methods: A survey questionnaire was developed and sent to all Otolaryngology Residency Program Directors for distribution to all current Otolaryngology residents in the US.

Results: A total of 91 complete surveys were collected. A majority of respondents felt that global health was either “very important” or “extremely important” (67%). Two-thirds of respondents had prior global health experience (68%). While 56% of respondents would definitely participate in a global health elective and 78% would likely or definitely participate, only 37% of residency programs offered a global health experience. The availability of a global health elective significantly correlated with residency match choice in respondents with previous global health experience. The three most common barriers to participation were insufficient time, insufficient funding, and lack of program.

Conclusion: Participation in bilateral and equitable international electives is a unique experience of personal and professional growth. There is an interest in these opportunities during residency training among Otolaryngology residents that is not reflected in availability within training programs. This suggests the need for development of humanitarian outreach exposure through global health experiences during surgical residency training.

Lessons for Latin America from Mexico’s Experience With Patient Safety and Covid Response

Globally, more than 1 in 10 patients continue to be harmed due to safety lapses during their care.[1] Unsafe care results in over three million deaths each year. The health burden of harm is estimated at 64 million Disability-Adjusted Life Years (DALYs) per year similar to that of HIV/AIDS. Most of this burden is in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). Recent estimates suggest that as many as 4 in 100 people die from unsafe care in the developing world [1]. The COVID-19 pandemic has clearly shown the risk of patient harm. The estimated proportion of hospital-acquired COVID-19 cases ranges from 12.5% to 44% [1]. As many as one third of these cases are reported to be among healthcare staff.
In Mexico, the Patient Safety journey started in 2002, with the National Crusade for Quality in Health Care,[2] the first Quality Policy in Latin America. The efforts to improve patient safety in Mexico can be divided into three distinct waves. A fourth wave has commenced with the pandemic. These lessons on patient safety are even more important now in the COVID era and can be applied in the region and elsewher