Humanitarian Surgical Missions

Smith5x7.jpgA key mission of the Department of Urology is to help develop surgical training programs in developing countries.  Not only is this a way to bring surgical and urological service to desperately underserved populations, it also is an opportunity to foster and support humanitarian outreach initiatives and interest for our own residents and fellows.  The programs have been coordinated by Dr. Joseph A Smith and this is a department wide effort  to which other faculty members have contributed their time and talent.

Most of the work in the last decade has been in Africa and surgical teams from the Department of Urology at Vanderbilt have worked with local doctors in Sierra Leone, Liberia, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Burundi, Malawi, Botswana, and Zambia.  Current efforts are focused on developing training programs in Malawi and Zambia, as well as Liberia and continuing to provide surgical expertise in Eastern Congo to women with catastrophic injuries from extreme sexual violence associated with the ongoing wars in that part of the country.

The efforts are funded by Dr. Smith personally and donations from patients and other supportive individuals have been linked with several non governmental organizations including the Harvard Humanitarian Institute and also with USAID.  The overarching plan is for the work to blend with the efforts of the Vanderbilt Center for Global Health and to develop a departmental endowment to permit continuity and further development of humanitarian and socially conscious contributions from the department and its members.

Most residents and interested fellows have had the opportunity to travel to Africa with Dr. Smith or other faculty to provide surgical and urologic service. This includes a teaching effort with local surgeons, trainees, and medical students.  Many of these countries have no urologists at all despite a tremendous need.  Dr. Smith intends to devote even more attention to developing these programs and at least quarterly trips to Africa by departmental faculty, residents and fellows are intended.  Many of the operations performed are complex surgical procedures difficult to complete with acceptable results in low resource settings.  Part of the initiative is to perform the needed research analyses to better identify the best use of resources in order to transfer skills to perform these operations by local surgeons.

Joseph A. Smith, Jr., M.D.
Professor, Department of Urology