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Inclusivity in Global Surgery Research: Harnessing strengths and fostering local leaders

It’s the beginning of December in Kigali, Rwanda and a group of medical students, junior doctors and senior physicians are huddled around a table of ideas. The team, comprised of young minds mixed from Rwanda and the U.S., have been tasked with developing a strategy for dealing with quick emergency surgery referrals from regional centres. Across the room, a similar picture is bouncing ideas back and forth about combatting surgical site infections at their local hospitals with a public campaign. Another is hovered over plans for a solar-based head torch model that would allow for surgery to continue in the face of potential electricity failures.

All have been pulled together as part of what’s known in the science & healthcare community as a “Hackathon.” Designed to generate powerful discussion, facilitate knowledge exchange and nurture multi-disciplinary partnerships, Hackathon teams set out to “hypothetically” solve some of medicine’s most complex problems. In this instance, the Hackathon was organized by students from InciSioN Rwanda and the Program in Global Surgery and Social Change (PGSSC), and participants were tasked with brainstorming strategies to combat prevalent surgical inequities.

Ongoing examples such as this highlight the incredible innovation that emerges when empowered local leaders come together for good. But I can’t help but ask myself what’s next? Where can we go from here and how can we ensure that these students unique ideas have the opportunity to be trialled for real?

In January 2019 the widely-acclaimed, British Journal of Surgery, resolutely released a special fully-fledged issue dedicated to global surgery research and insights. Content was varied and covered key themes such as harnessing technology for LMIC players, strategies for training local champions and the ethics surrounding key global surgery ideas. Most importantly, the issue promoted a vast network of global partnerships. It was a beautiful example of leaders from all across the globe learning, building and sharing research in a collective, collaborative manner.

So how can we continue these standards moving forwards? The answer is simple. Reaching out to our local partners in all instances. Seeking international collaboration to better pilot research projects, analyze datasets and implement local change in the most effective way. There is no better leader than the one whose passion comes from experiential learning.

And moreover, together let’s create and support research infrastructure and training in low and middle-resource settings. Events such as the Hackathon, provide exposure to endless research opportunities. In order to cultivate this passion into reform, educational curriculums around the world must prioritize research methodology and training. Equally, modern research trends such as large data analytics need to be accessible to all. Big name collaboratives such as GlobalSurg and GlobalPaedSurg are dynamic examples of such quality-driven data collection. In all instances, women and minorities should be encouraged and welcomed to lead, grow and participate in such work. Initiatives like African Girls Can CODE provide stellar coding camps to young women, making sure our future tech & research workforce is bright, diverse and ready.

So onward, we go. The next generation of global surgeons is ready and waiting with a passionate repertoire of ideas. Let’s build on previous examples of inclusive, ethical and diverse global surgery research and continue to seek allies on all occasions. When we are extroverted in our approach to the recruitment, analysis and dissemination of data, talent is revealed. And by investing in research strategies in low and middle-resource settings, we have the power to turn hypotheses such as those developed during this Hackathon, into reality. I can think of no better community than global surgery, to champion this change.

*For the full PGSSC Hackathon Report held in Kigali Rwanda in Dec 2018, please read here. The next Kigali Surgery Innovation Hackathon will be held in June 2019 by InciSioN Rwanda.


1. Global Surgery. Br J Surg. 2019;106.

2. Collaborative G. Surgical site infection after gastrointestinal surgery in high-income, middle-income, and low-income countries: A prospective, international, multicentre cohort study. Lancet Infect Dis. 2018;3099(18):1–10.

3. Global PaedSurg [Internet]. [cited 2019 Jan 12]. Available from:

4. Meet the African Girls who are coding to make a difference [Internet]. UN Women. 2018 [cited 2019 Jan 12]. Available from:

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