Online Global Surgery & Anaesthesia Symposium 2018



Lifebox® student representative and Queen’s University Belfast medical student Katie Khong shares her experience of attending an online global surgery and anaesthesia symposium to learn more about how Lifebox is addressing the obstacles to safer surgery and anaesthesia globally.

Hello everyone,

This is my first blog as a student representative for Lifebox!

How did I get involved with Lifebox – and why?

My interest in global surgery and anaesthesia and equality in healthcare stemmed from my experiences in charity work particularly in Cambodia. My time there was spent teaching health and English to children in rural and deprived areas. This got me to reflect about global inequalities that are present throughout the world and how each one of these are intricately linked with each other. When I came across Lifebox (by chance on social media!), I was instantly eager to get involved as to me it encompasses two areas I am passionate about – global health and medicine.

Last month I joined student representatives across the UK and attended an online symposium to give an insight into what we’re about!

Global surgery can be defined as universal access to safe, affordable surgical and anaesthesia care. But what does it mean to me? For me, global surgery is about championing change and improvement in surgery and anaesthesia worldwide, striving for equality in healthcare, and above all enabling patients to get the care they deserve.

Our first task of the day was to log in to the online platform known as Zoom. I fall into the category of not being the best with technology, however this was simple, easy to use and allowed me to connect with everyone quickly! Throughout the day we had a number of talks and interactive sessions which allowed us to engage in discussion and ask questions. After our introduction from the rep coordinators and a video from Lifebox chair Dr Atul Gawande, it was time to start with the guest speakers.

Our first was Dr Thomas Weiser, who gave us an excellent insight into the biggest challenges in global health and how Lifebox are making incredible steps to overcome these, such as with the procurement and distribution of pulse oximeters – a simple yet extremely valuable device.

It was interesting to listen to how important defining epidemiology, disparities and outcomes of care around the world is, in order to tailor projects to the specific needs of different  countries. We also discussed the three pillars of Lifebox a) promoting teamwork, b) improving anaesthesia safety, c) reducing surgical infection. This talk was very interesting and got me excited to see what the rest of the day had in store for us!

Our next seminar was with guest speaker Dr Emmanuel Ayebale, an anaesthetist from Uganda. I found his talk inspiring and insightful. It was exciting to hear what a difference Lifebox can make. Dr Ayebale highlighted how Lifebox is also about being a movement of change: if you inspire someone to make a difference, then this can be just as big as directly saving a life because that person you have inspired may then go on to save several lives themselves.

It was poignant to hear exactly how global Lifebox is and that it is never too early (or late!) to get involved! We heard about how important it is to gain the perspective of those patients you are trying to treat and how important the setting is in influencing what help is needed.

Dr Mansi Tara is a dentist and project Manager for Lifebox across the South Asia region, with a particular focus on India. Her talk highlighted how different countries can pose unique challenges for surgical safety. For example Dr Tara relayed to us how in India Lifebox works with different partners to distribute pulse oximeters and provide training to far reaching areas within India. It was interesting to see what challenges surround global surgery and indeed what challenges people face with regards to healthcare such as political unrest, insurgency, tribal conflicts and distance to travel to get to primary health centres, treacherous in and of itself.

We then received a talk from Ms. Kris Torgeson, Lifebox Global CEO. From learning a little bit of background about Ms. Torgeson, it is incredible to see how people from all walks of life can come together for one common aim – to help. The vision of Lifebox and how we can work together to improve surgical safety and anaesthesia care was discussed. We also listened to how, in order to implement the WHO Surgical Safety Checklist effectively across the world, it is important to form partnerships in different countries and work together with a common motivation and aim in mind.

Finally there was a very helpful Q&A session from two junior doctors, Dr Issy Marks and Dr Mike Kalmus- Eliasz who provided great advice and insightful to us as student representatives who are keen to get involved in this exciting work, but have lots of questions to ask!

Overall the symposium gave us an invaluable and humbling insight about the successes of work of Lifebox, the unique challenges the organisation and their partners face, and the futures plans and aims for improving surgical safety on a global scale.

It is great to feel that as a student representative for Lifebox, just at the beginning, you are a part of something global and that you can make a difference. Even if it’s a small contribution, it’s a start and it matters.