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World J Surg. 2013 Mar;37(3):481-7. doi: 10.1007/s00268-012-1885-5.

Qualitative analysis of the perspectives of volunteer reconstructive surgeons on participation in task-shifting programs for surgical-capacity building in low-resource countries.

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Section of Plastic Surgery, Department of Surgery, 2130 Taubman Center, The University of Michigan Health System, 1500 E. Medical Center Drive, Ann Arbor, MI 48109, USA.



Experts agree that the global burden of untreated surgical disease is disproportionately borne by the world's poorest. This is partly because of a severe shortage of surgical care providers. Several experts have emphasized the need to research solutions for surgical-capacity building in developing countries. Volunteer surgeons already contribute significantly to directly tackling surgical disease burden in developing countries. We qualitatively evaluated their interest in participating in task-shifting programs as a surgical capacity-building strategy.


We conducted semi-structured interviews with surgeons familiar with delivery of surgical care in developing countries through their extensive volunteer experiences. The interviews followed a structured guide that centered on task shifting as a model for surgical capacity-building in developing countries. We analyzed the interview transcripts using established qualitative methods to identify themes relevant to the interest of volunteer surgeons to participate in task-shifting programs.


Most participants were open to involvement in task-shifting programs as a feasible way for surgical capacity-building in low-resource communities. However, they thought that surgical task shifting would need to be implemented with some important requisites. The most strongly emphasized condition was direct supervision of lower-skilled providers by fully trained surgeons.


There is a favorable view regarding the involvement of surgeon volunteers in capacity-building efforts. Additionally, volunteer surgeons view task shifting as a feasible way to accomplish surgical capacity building in developing countries-provided that surgical tasks are assigned appropriately, and lower level providers are adequately supervised.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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