Kenneth J. Paonessa, MD
Global Outreach Committee Chair
The SRS Global Outreach Committee has been very busy during the 2011-2012 year. In addition to trying to do a total website update, we have been adding several new sites. At the 47th Annual Meeting the committee will be reviewing sites that SRS members have started in Bangladesh, Morocco, and Jamaica, as well as the possibility of a Middle East site in Egypt. The SRS has become more global and grown with more members from around the world. The concept of “Global Outreach “and of trying to teach spinal deformity care to surgeons in areas of the world where it has not been previously available is not new. The purpose of the Global Outreach Committee of the SRS has been to foster and encourage this in the membership of the SRS.
As part of this goal the Global Outreach Committee sent a survey to all SRS members and we would like to give you a glimpse of the results. If you attend our Global Outreach Lunchtime Symposium on Wednesday September 5th during the Annual Meeting you will also hear about this. We received responses from 203 SRS members.
Roughly 30 percent of respondents (59 members) said they had been active in global outreach with the remainder of 70 percent (138 members) saying they had not been.
Ninety percent (90%) of those who have volunteered said they make between one to three trips per year. Fifty-four percent said their trips were one week while 24 percent said they were for three to five days long, and 17 percent said they were for two weeks.
When asked why they have not yet volunteered, members’ responses included:
Over 40 % gave some additional comments such as “I am a researcher how could I help,” “I am retired how could I help,” “fixing scoliosis requires a team and close follow-up,” “I have never received an official request to help participate,” and “I don’t have the time.”
When asked what areas of the world need the most help in treating patients with spinal deformities the members responded with the following, listed from most need to least need.
Africa East Coast, Africa West Coast, Africa Sahara, Central America including Caribbean Islands, Asia Southeast, Asia – Central, South America, Asia- Mideast, Africa- Madagascar, Africa – South Africa, and Europe – East. North America, Europe –West, and Australia were all felt to be already receiving adequate care for spinal deformities.
When asked if the SRS was doing enough to promote global outreach 67 percent said yes, 33 percent said no.
When asked in what ways the SRS could better help its members participate in global outreach:
Many members gave more detailed suggestions. The most common suggestion was offering financial assistance. The next common suggestion contained the theme of being able to access well-organized trips that are already taking place with all the necessary logistics in place (e.g., lodging, equipment). Offering outreach opportunities to non-USA members and involving younger members were other notable responses.
When asked if there were areas of the world where SRS members would not feel comfortable volunteering their time:
In the free response section, many members did not think visiting countries with unstable political climate (e.g., armed conflict, political or religious persecution) was safe. The Middle East was most frequently listed as the region in the world that was of concern. Furthermore, some were concerned about access to appropriate healthcare should they fall victim to illness during the trip.
Overall, it is interesting to note that approximately half of the members who responded to the question felt comfortable visiting anywhere in the world. This may be due to our current global membership and/or general thought that humanitarian efforts such as global outreach for spinal deformity have no boundaries. However, every effort ought to be made to make SRS endorsed global outreach activities as safe as possible.
In the upcoming months the Global Outreach Committee will be sharing the results of this survey with the Presidential Line and membership. Hopefully we can learn how better to introduce the concept of volunteering to new and emeritus members by making it easier to match a prospective volunteer with an endorsed site. The SRS endorsed sites have been researched and are only approved if they are felt safe for SRS members and their support staff. Endorsed sites are visited on at least an annual basis and have local physicians that agreed to follow patients in between visits. We are currently trying to standardize data collection in these sites so that a “ Global Outreach Study Group “can be formed to be able to analyze the results and success of these surgeries performed.
Lastly, I would encourage anyone who is interested in volunteering to visit the Global Outreach Program table at the Annual Meeting or the website for more information. Surgeons who are retired, or no longer operate, as well as researchers are invited to participate in some clinics or help in data collection for these sites. Most surgeons or volunteer staff who have been involved in Global Outreach will tell you that it is quite often a “life changing” experience. By donating a week or two you can help those in need in underserved countries and indirectly help yourself and your patients in your home countries also.
Chair: Kenneth J. Paonessa, MD Committee Members: Theodore A. Wagner, MD; Saumyajit Basu, MD; Samuel KW Cho, MD; Anthony S. Rinella, MD; Youssry MK El-Hawary, MD; Michael J. Mendelow, MD; Mohammed M. Mossaad, MD; Anthony P. Schnuerer, PA; Ahmet Alanay, MD; Kyu-Jung Cho, MD; Matthew J. Geck, MD; Hossein Mehdian, MD, FRCS(Ed)