There is a global lack of access to surgical care, and this issue disproportionately affects those in low- and middle-income countries. Global surgery academic collaborations (GSACs) between surgeons in high-income countries and those in low- and middle-income countries are one possible sustainable way to address the global surgical need. The objective of this study was to examine the barriers to participation in GSACs and to suggest ways to increase involvement.
A convenience sample of 86 surgeons, anesthesiologists, other physicians, residents, fellows, and nurses from the US, Canada, and Norway was used. Participants were all health care providers from multiple specialties and multiple academic centers with varied involvement in GSACs. More than half of the participants were neurosurgeons. Participants were interviewed in person or over Skype in Toronto over the course of 2 months by using a predetermined set of open-ended questions. Thematic content analysis was used to evaluate the participants’ responses.
Based on the data, 3 main themes arose that pointed to individual, community, and system barriers for involvement in GSACs. Individual barriers included loss of income, family commitments, young career, responsibility to local patients, skepticism of global surgery efforts, ethical concerns, and safety concerns. Community barriers included insufficient mentorship and lack of support from colleagues. System barriers included lack of time, minimal academic recognition, insufficient awareness, insufficient administrative support and organization, and low political and funding support.
Steps can be taken to address some of these barriers and to increase the involvement of surgeons from high-income countries in GSACs. This could lead to a necessary scale-up of global surgery efforts that may help increase worldwide access to surgical care.