Program in Global Surgery and Social Change

Program Director: Robert Riviello MD, MPH

Program Background
Historically, surgery has been largely omitted from the global public health discourse. However, conditions ranging from injuries to cancer to NCDs to complications from childbirth comprise a significant and growing proportion of global death and disability, and all require surgical attention. Nonetheless, surgery still is inaccessible to those who need it the most: a large portion of the world’s poor. Our vision at the Program for Global Surgery and Social Change (PGSSC) is universal access to safe, timely, and affordable surgical, anesthesia, obstetric, and gynecological care. We aim to achieve this vision through surgical systems strengthening with a particular focus on our core values of social justice and equity, accompaniment, solidarity, and evidence-based solutions.

Our Strategy

Over a decade ago, the establishment of the PGSSC created a unique opportunity to bring together faculty and fellows across Harvard Medical School and affiliated hospitals from the clinical fields of surgery, anesthesia, obstetrics & gynecology with a health equity commitment. Housed within the Department of Global Health and Social Medicine, the PGSSC has benefited from multi-disciplinary and trans-sectoral collaborations. Researchers in the PGSSC pursue initiatives that integrate the social sciences, clinical specialties, and expertise in health care delivery. Through this approach, the program is able to advance an empirical base relevant to care delivery for bio-socially complex diseases and settings across the full spectrum of surgical care, while also expanding the traditional scope of the surgical care provider.

In 2020, the PGSSC sought to review and revise our strategic priorities in light of the multitude of challenges we faced alongside the rest of our global community. From COVID-19 to climate change, to difficult and raw discussions around racial injustice and inequity, we recognized the need for a renewed approach to our mission of achieving universal access to safe, affordable, and timely surgical, anesthesia, and obstetric care. We created a new 5-year strategic plan focused on three pillars: Research; Policy and Advocacy; and Capacity Building. We additionally defined three new strategic priorities for the 5-year period: a focus on health equity through universal access to safe, timely, and affordable SOA care; social change through equitable partnerships; and the development of future leaders in the field of global surgery.