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Operation Giving Back

General Interest

Please feel free to provide any suggestions on appropriate volunteerism resources for this page via the feedback form found under the heading "Contact Us."

Please note that the following links are provided as a courtesy to those with an interest in humanitarian outreach.  Unless otherwise specified, the American College of Surgeons is not affiliated with these organizations, and not responsible for the content of their websites.


General Resources


World Health Organization, Global Initiative for Emergency and Essential Surgical Care (GIEESC)
This initiative aims to strengthen the capacity to deliver effective emergency surgical care and to improve the quality of surgical care worldwide by establishing surgical and anesthesia standards that are achievable in resource limited settings.  Through promoting the use of evidence-based care and facilitating information exchanges among a worldwide partnership of organizations and individuals, GIEESC promotes collaboration on national programs for essential surgical care, implementing best practice protocols at all levels of care, and assuring quality and safety in surgical settings. The GIEESC website offers detailed reports of low- and middle- income country activities on establishing emergency and essential surgical care at the district-level.

World Health Organization, Safe Surgery Saves Lives
The goal of the Safe Surgery Saves Lives Challenge is to improve the safety of surgical care around the world by defining a core set of safety standards that can be applied in all WHO Member States.  The Challenge has identified four areas in which dramatic improvement can be made in the safety of surgical care: surgical site infection prevention, safe anesthesia, safe surgical teams and measurement of surgical services and devised a simple checklist and a companion manual that are downloadable from this site.


Lifebox Foundation

Over 70,000 operating rooms worldwide lack pulse oximeters to monitor patients, ranging from 41% in Latin America to 49% in south Asia, to 70% in sub-Saharan Africa.  This means tens of thousands of lives are lost every year: without adequate monitoring, a routine operation can be fatal. Lifebox works to remedy this shortage through provision of high quality,low cost oximeters specifically designed to be appropriate in low resource settings, combined with education, training and support for implementation of the World Health Organization Surgical Safety Checklist. To date, Lifebox has distributed over 3000 pulse oximeters to operating rooms in more than 70 countries. Lifebox is interested in collaborating with NGO and academic partners as well as interested individuals to support safer ORs and better outcomes for surgical patients.  Read more about their training for Surgical Safety and Pulse Oximetry


World Health Organization Violence and Injury Prevention
The Violence and Injury Prevention and Disability program (VIP) of the World Health Organization works to prevent violence through scientifically credible strategies that are conceived and implemented in relation to causes at the levels of the individual, family, community and society.  The VIP works to reduce violence, road traffic, and other injuries to children and adults by promoting evidence-based injury prevention interventions and sustained investment by all sectors.

WFSA International Standards for a Safe Practice of Anaesthesia

The World Federation of Societies of Anaesthesiologists (WFSA) has created guidelines for International Standards for a Safe Practice of Anaesthesia, incorporating and elaborating upon the core components of the Safe Anaesthesia part of the 2008 World Health Organization's World Alliance for Patient Safety "Safe Surgery Saves Lives" global initiative.  These WFSA standards are intended to provide guidance and assistance to anaesthesia professionals, their professional societies, hospital and facility administrators, and governments for improving and maintaining the quality and safety of anaesthesia care.


Alliance for Surgery and Anesthesia Presence Today (ASAP Today)
ASAP Today, formerly the Global Burden of Surgical Disease Working Group, is comprised of surgeons, anesthesiologists, public health scholars, economists and others interested in better defining the role of surgery in global public health.  Areas of focus include defining and assessing the global burden of surgical disease, evaluating barriers to access and delivery of surgery in low-resource settings, improving data collection in low- and middle-income countries, exploring effective coverage for surgical and perioperative services, and advocating for sustainable support of global surgical programs.  The website includes a comprehensive bibliography on the subject as well as links to presentations delivered at its annual meetings.


Society of International Humanitarian Surgeons

The Society of International Humanitarian Surgeons (SIHS) is a New York City based non-profit effort to improve surgical care in resource-poor environments by supporting hospitals and surgical programs with staffing and training. In addition, SIHS is involved in the assessment of the burden of surgical disease.


Brigham and Women's Hospital Surgery and Public Health Initiative
The mission of the Brigham and Women's Surgery and Public Health Initiative is to save lives and improve the value of surgical care at a population-level.  Its goals are to develop and implement tools that measurably reduce harm in surgical care; develop meaningful metrics to measure quality, safety and cost; understand and decrease variation and disparities in surgical care; and develop tools to better educate the next generation of surgeons.


Global Health Delivery Project
The Global Health Delivery Project (GHD) seeks to reduce the “implementation gap” in global health, to effectively utilize new investments and systematically deliver care to those who need it.  GHD was created by leaders from the Division of Global Health Equity at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, the schools of medicine (Department of Global Health & Social Medicine), public health (The François-Xavier Bagnoud Center for Health and Human Rights), and business (Institute for Strategy and Competitiveness) at Harvard, and Partners In Health.

Global Health Delivery Online (GHDonline)
GHDonline is the online platform of communities developed by the Global Health Delivery Project (GHD), enabling open collaboration between global health implementers and organizations in online “communities of practice” in order to create a new breadth of knowledge applicable in the field, and democratize access to critical information to improve the delivery of health care worldwide. By joining GHDonline communities, global health practitioners can rapidly disseminate and exchange proven practices and experiences, collaborate with a network of peers at local and international levels for critical situations responses and support, and access a growing body of practical information created and recommended by community members.  For more information, please see the Global Surgery and Anesthesia Community.


Global Partners in Anesthesia and Surgery

Global Partners in Anesthesia and Surgery (GPAS) is a collaborative effort of faculty, residents, and students in the Departments of Surgery and Anesthesia, and the Schools of Medicine and Nursing at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF). Through mutually beneficial partnerships with universities and other organizations in low income countries, GPAS aims to develop and implement strategies to reduce the global burden of surgical disease and to improve the quality of perioperative care. Projects include workforce expansion and training, health systems development, faculty and trainee exchanges, and collaborative research projects.


Sphere Project
Launched in 1997 by a group of international NGOs, the Sphere Project is committed to ensuring quality and accountability in the provision of medical care to disaster survivors. The Sphere Project’s Humanitarian Charter and Minimum Standards in Disaster Response is among several excellent resources which can be downloaded from this site.


Kaiser Global Health

The Kaiser Family Foundation is a non-profit private operating foundation, based in Menlo Park, California, dedicated to producing and communicating the best possible information, research and analysis on health issues.  A resource on U.S. global health policy, Kaiser Global Health features information on current and proposed global health policies, information and news on global health issues, and Global Health Facts, which can provide global health data by topic or country.


Council on Surgical and Perioperative Safety

The Council on Surgical & Perioperative Safety is a multidisciplinary coalition of professional organizations whose members are involved in the care of surgical patients.  Its mission and vision are to  promote and create a culture of patient safety and a caring perioperative workplace environment for all members of the surgical team. The Council's goals include providing opportunities for dialog, joint education, and coordinated advocacy efforts. 


Hope Through Healing Hands

Hope Through Healing Hands (HTHH) is a nonprofit 501(c)3 that promotes an improved quality of life for citizens and communities around the world using health as a currency for peace. 


Bellagio Essential Surgery Group (BESG)

The Bellagio Essential Surgery Group (BESG) is committed to raising international awareness to increase access to surgical services in resource constrained settings in sub-Saharan Africa. Through cross-country collaborations, it works in partnership with governments and agencies committed to addressing the surgical burden of disease. The BESG aims to increase access to essential surgical services by advocating for the integration of surgery into health systems; networking surgical providers, public health practitioners, policy makers and researchers; and promoting the development of projects, training programs and priority research.



Educational Resources


Humanitarian Academy at Harvard

The Humanitarian Academy at Harvard is dedicated to educating and training current and future generations of humanitarian leaders in the areas of human rights, disaster response, humanitarian service delivery, crisis leadership, and other dimensions of humanitarian studies. Courses and programs are available for both students (graduate/undergraduate) and humanitarian professionals.


Harvard Medical School Global Clinical Scholars Research Training Program

The Harvard Medical School Global Clinical Scholars Research Training Program (GCSRT) is a one-year program of blended learning that is intended for clinicians and clinician-scientists who desire rigorous training in the methods and conduct of clinical research. The program is comprised of three in-person workshops in both London and Boston that are combined with 56 online lectures and 24 webinars that cover biostatistics, epidemiology, clinical trials, surveys, and drug development, regulation, and leadership.


Office of International Surgery at the University of Toronto

The Office of International Surgery (OIS) was established in 2000 by the Department of Surgery, University of Toronto to foster surgical education, research and implementation for development. The goals of the OIS are to apply Canadian talent and resources to reduce the suffering caused by injury and surgical disease around the world; develop the culture of academic surgery around the world by encouraging and supporting partnerships between investigators here and abroad; give doctors, health care practitioners and our partners overseas the knowledge and skills to reduce the human cost of injury everywhere; and to make significant reduction in human suffering worldwide.  Projects include the Ptolemy Project (see below) and the Annual Bethune Round Table on International Surgery (BRT).


Ptolemy Project

The Ptolemy Project provides free full-text access to the University of Toronto's electronic library to 300 surgeons in east Africa and assesses how they use the information received, with the ultimate goal of training a group of surgical educators for the east African region.


Global Library of Women's Medicine

The Global Library of Women’s Medicine is a comprehensive, peer-reviewed collection of 442 chapters on women’s medicine developed from the highly-acclaimed, six-volume, encyclopedic textbook Gynecology & Obstetrics, first published in 1934 and edited for the last 30 years by Professor John J. Sciarra.  In addition to the comprehensive collection of chapters on women’s medicine, the site provides clinical guidance for safer motherhood, visual atlases, surgical videos, and patient resources.



The HINARI Programme, set up by WHO together with major publishers, enables developing countries to gain access to one of the world's largest collections of biomedical and health literature. Free or very low-cost access to more 6400 journal titles is available to health institutions in 108 countries, areas and territories benefiting many thousands of health workers and researchers, and in turn, contributing to improved world health.


Unite for Sight Global Health University

Unite For Sight's Global Health University (GHU) is designed to develop and nurture the next generation of global health leaders. GHU helps to effect widespread innovative change in global health through comprehensive training workshops and webinars, a Global Health Certificate Program, fellowship and internship opportunities in the U.S. and abroad, and online courses which are freely available to the public.  The Global Health Certificate program is designed to provide a comprehensive understanding about successful global health and social entrepreneurship practices.  Another offering, the Online Global Health Course, discusses the importance of best practices to effect widespread, fundamental change in global health, and raises awareness and understanding that "worst practice" principles that are often employed by some organizations can do significant harm.


University of British Columbia Online Global Surgical Care Courses

The Branch for International Surgery, within the surgery-related departments of the University of British Columbia, offers several online graduate courses.


SURG 510: Surgical Care in International Health covers topics such as the global burden of surgical disease and disability, global maternal mortality, surgical care education in global low-resource settings, and the role of surgical care professionals as advocates in international health. The intended audiences for this course are graduate level students, postgraduate trainees, and surgeons or surgery-related health practitioners; non-medical graduate students or others may register with permission from the instructor.


SURG 512: Global Disability: A Surgical Care Mandate explores the relationship of
surgery to preventing and treating disabling impairments in lower income countries. Focus is on sensory impairments (blindness and deafness) and physical impairment that causes disability. This course is designed for professionals in the surgical care disciplines, rehabilitation, CBR and disability practitioners, and managers in the health NGO community. Graduate students in other faculties including the rehabilitative sciences with
an interest in disability within limited resource environments are also encouraged to apply.


Paul Farmer Global Surgery Fellowship

The Paul Farmer Global Surgery Fellowship is a one- or two-year program designed to study the role of surgical care in population-based health care in resource-poor settings.  The program is open to surgeons who have completed residency or surgical residents who are taking a scheduled break in residency to conduct research. Interested fellows may incorporate an optional Masters of Public Health degree during their fellowship through the Summer Program in Clinical Effectiveness at the Harvard School of Public Health.


Global Health Course: Clinical Tropical, Migrant and Travel Medicine
The Global Health Course is a 8-week preparation course intended for physicians and other health care providers working in tropical medicine, travelers' health, and migrant health. Based on the principle that there are no local diseases, emphasis is on the delivery of pragmatic information and skills for providing health care in a global village. Participants include practicing health care providers, UMN medical students, and local and national residents and fellows. The course also plays host to a large number of international faculty and physicians.


Professional's Training in Global Health at OHSU

Professionals' Training in Global Health (PTGH) offers training to physicians, nurses, NPs, and PAs with an active Oregon medical license who wish to volunteer for medical work overseas, including disaster relief, in low income countries. The PTGH program updates physicians' clinical skills in primary care (family medicine, emergency medicine and obstetrics), and provides courses in public health, infectious disease, tropical medicine and related fields pertinent to overseas work.  The didactic program is presented at OHSU with clinical rotations at free medical clinics in the Portland metropolitan area. The training is intensive, all day Thursdays and Fridays, for ten weeks from Thursday September 9 to Friday November 19, 2010, with the exception of the week of October 11 when there are no classes. A Certificate of Global Health will be awarded by the OHSU Global Health Center upon completion of the training. For more information, please see this April 23, 2009 Portland Tribune news article, Re-learning Medicine for Another World.


University of Utah Center for Global Surgery
The Center for Global Surgery brings together the extensive resources of the University of Utah to address the needs for affordable, accessible surgical care in the United States and internationally. The Center considers Surgery as an ecosystem within healthcare, which has specific needs for education, technology, business and resource supply chains. It brings together a collaborative network to include academic research and training, in partnership with the business and bioengineering communities, nonprofits, professional societies and public health programs, globally. The Center for Global Surgery currently supports educational initiatives including the Extreme Affordability: Innovative Solutions for Surgical Care conference and fellowships in Global Emergency Medicine and Global Urology. Click here to view videos from the 2012 Extreme Affordability conference.


MEASURE Evaluation

MEASURE Evaluation is the USAID Global Health Bureau's primary vehicle for supporting improvements in monitoring and evaluation in population, health and nutrition worldwide. It helps to identify data needs, collect and analyze technically sound data, and use that data for health decision making. Through training workshops, master's degree programs, and partnerships, MEASURE Evaluation works to strengthen the monitoring and evaluation (M&E) skills and technical capacity of individuals and organizations.


Tufts University Master of Arts in Humanitarian Assistance

The Master of Arts in Humanitarian Assistance (MAHA) is a one-year joint degree offered by the Friedman School and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. The program is geared toward mid-career professionals who have significant field experience in humanitarian assistance. The program’s mission is to offer an academic setting where professionals can develop their knowledge and skills in the areas of nutrition, food policy, and economic, political and social development as they relate to humanitarian action in complex emergencies and other disasters.


Global Health Network

The Global Health Network is a collection of websites built by professional communities with the aim of supporting research in their specific fields by sharing knowledge and methods. Each subject-specific website allows researchers from these fields to connect, collaborate, develop documents, share resources, and exchange information in open forums, as well as build project groups to work on joint activities in closed work spaces. Global health communities include: Enterics Research, Dengue Research, Epidemic Research, Bioethics,

Cancer, Global Health Coordinators, Diagnostics, Epidemiology, Microbiology, Non-Communicable Diseases, Global Health Reviewers, Global Health Trials, Global Neuroinfections, Global Research Nurses, ISARIC, Mother Child Link, and Tropical Disease Research Fellowship. The Site Finder website allows researchers to register, find, and connect with other research sites.


Stanford University Center for Global Health and the Johns Hopkins University Berman Institute of Bioethics, Ethical Challenges in Short-Term Global Health Training

This series of cases introduces trainees and others involved in global health research and service to ethical issues that may arise during short-term training experiences abroad. Being able to recognize and navigate these issues is critical for avoiding harm to communities as well as facilitating a long-term, productive collaboration for the betterment of global health.



Financial Resources

Research Funding Opportunities

NIH Fogarty International Center Independent Scientist in Global Health Award



In 1999, a program on humanitarian crises and human rights was established at Harvard.  In March 2009, the third meeting of the Humanitarian Action Summit will expand its focus to include a discussion of the surgical burden of disease in addition to examinations of protection of civilians in armed conflict, information and data management, human resources development, mental health, and sector collaboration and collective action.  The Summit is a multi-sector collaboration that brings together leaders in education, law, business, policy, human rights, and medicine to share their expertise and lead the discussion on these critical components of international crises.

click here




BMC Health Services Research, 2008, Volume 8, Article 121

This article describes a potential tool for evaluating the quality of care of short-term medical missions.