One of the reasons Short Term Surgical Missions (STSM) are being discussed at such great length amongst global health professionals at the present time is that we know that they are deeply flawed. The problem is that while they are imperfect, they are also saving lives and bridging a gap that exists in developing nations, and as such it would be an even greater flaw to eliminate them.
The discussions surrounding finding solutions for the problems that exist in STSM's are varied and there are many, many opinions about the best way forward. Solutions which are feasible are, however, difficult to come by.
As a team Upasuaji holds many ideas about how we can improve, and in the long term we do hope that the programs we are instituting in East Africa will allow a situation where STSM's, as well as medical missions, are significantly reduced or eliminated because access and quality of healthcare in communities improves.
In our efforts to address the flaws associated with STSM the first thing Upasuaji is doing is changing the way they are done. We believe that the best short term solution to many of the problems that exist is to change our focus from having foreign teams coming from outside East Africa and instead developing teams within East Africa of local professionals and surgeons. This immediately reduces some of the major short comings in STSM by significantly reducing costs, having a team which already understands the culture and community they are working in, little to no language barriers, the ability to follow-up by having local teams, and the ability to refer more difficult cases in which a short term mission would potentially see a bad outcome, to a better facility.
Changing the way that missions are done does not mean that the need for educators or collaboration with foreign universities and professionals is eliminated. In fact, we see and even greater need for these collaborations, just simply in a slightly different capacity and with a more balanced exchange of students, ideas and research opportunities.