UBC Global Health Courses Save Lives Near and Far

Ryan and Roohina in ORSince meeting at UBC medical school in 2003, Ryan and Roohina have traversed the globe to help ease trauma outcomes in Vietnam, Haiti, and Uganda—Ryan as an enhanced surgical skills physicians, or rural surgeon, and Roohina as an anaestheologist. Now, the married couple practices full-time in Inuvik, Northwest Territories, serving patients in the most northern operating room in Canada.

While earning Diplomas of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene in London, UK, Ryan and Roohina learned that Canadian physicians are especially well-trained in general practice and highly valued in under-resourced areas of the world. Next, they decided to take courses through the UBC Branch for International Surgical Care and chose Surgical Care in International Health and Global Disability: A Surgical Care Mandate.

“Working in rural Canada is a lot like working in low-resource settings,” says Ryan. It can take patients up to two hours to get to the hospital in Inuvik by plane from the smaller northern communities, and from Inuvik it takes three and a half hours to access the next level of care, which includes specialist surgeons, in Yellowknife. Even then, the chances of receiving surgical care are worryingly weather-dependent because planes don’t fly in low visibility conditions. Still, Ryan and Roohina enjoy providing personal, “full service” care. “I wanted to be able to travel around and help people wherever I go,” Roohina reflects, “But, I’ve discovered that there’s a lot I can right here in my own country.”

Since taking courses with the Branch, both Ryan and Roohina have gained a deeper appreciation for the processes involved in surgical care. Ryan now views surgical disease as part of a greater public health picture and takes a more inclusive approach to teaching physicians-in-training about surgical care. He notes, “the hospital needs to operate in a way that reflects the needs of the community, and it’s important for all physicians to know when and how to provide care.” Similarly, Roohina has come to appreciate the standard operating room checklist. “The course taught me that using this checklist (that I used to dismiss) has significantly decreased mortality worldwide, according to World Health Organization research.”

Now, as the burden of global disease transitions from one of infectious diseases to one of surgical diseases, a Master’s degree in International Surgical Care is particularly relevant and urgent. Ryan strongly feels that a degree like this is necessary to legitimize the growing role of international surgery in primary care by providing a much-needed academic complement to surgical practice.