Sunday, February 16, 2014


I co-direct the "Public Health and Surgery" course here at the University of Utah. This week in class we were discussing 'failure'. We heard from colleagues who had experienced program collapse, we watched David Damberger's talk on "Learning From Failure", and we had a nice chat about how and why projects 'fail'.
As I was listening to my venerable colleagues talk of adaptations made to ongoing programs in light of failed predictions, it struck me that the word 'failure' is often an inaccurate one in the global health / development paradigm - I even tweeted about it.
No successful global heath project has functioned perfectly out of the gate. Whether you look at smallpox eradication, vitamin-A administration in Nepal, or trachoma therapy in Northern Africa, all required modification and adaptation as initial expectations proved inaccurate, the program developed, and circumstances changed. Alanna Sheikh wrote a very nice post on this very subject - "When a program doesn't work".
There is, of course, much that could be discussed regarding when one should admit defeat with a particular endeavor. Erroneous premises, intransigent administrations or uncooperative donors can all doom a project. If and when to throw in the towel is, to misquote Dr. King, the "most persistent and urgent question".
I completely support the increasing culture of transparency around 'failure' for all the usual reasons (e.g. don't reinvent the wheel that doesn't roll, clarify to donors that this work is hard and complex, solicit help from initially uninvolved experts). However, I think we need a different word for the times when things don't go as we desire.

Until we walk away, it's not failure.

September 3 1967 - the day Sweden switched from driving on the left to driving on the right.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Talking to people

I am honored to have been asked to speak at UT Southwestern's 3rd Annual Global Health Symposium on February 8&9 2014.
As you can see, the topic is "Transformative Global Health: Impact and Accountability", which will make for a wide-ranging and engaging couple of days. For example, I'm going to be talking about the role of medical education in transforming global health i.e. inter- and intra- institutions, professions and regions.

I just finished reading "Pharmacy on a Bicycle", one of the authors of which (Dr. Eric Bing) is also speaking at the conference - very interested in chatting with him.

All in all, should be an illuminating and fun weekend - see you there?

UPDATE: This conference was indeed engaging with many learned speakers and some great work being done all over the world - I would heartily recommend attending next year if you can swing it. The UTSW Medical Center News wrote a very nice piece on my talk.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Website returns.

After a ridiculously long time, we have managed to get our website up and running.

Hopefully this will give folks an idea of what our group does, and perhaps how we can help with their endeavors.

We are also in the process of uploading stripped-down versions of our refresher course lectures so they can be downloaded and used as educational resources in their own right.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Registration is now open for the Center for Global Surgery 2013 Extreme Affordability Conference!

After the impressive success of the inaugural conference, I'm anticipating another thought-provoking and inspiring experience.

Watch videos of lectures from 2012, and mark your calendars.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Tweets from "Updates in Anesthesia" course.

We had a very successful "Annual Updates in Anesthesia" course (our 9th) in Kumasi, Ghana. The organizers (as always) did a superb job, and the 250+ attendees were engaged, enthusiastic and stimulating.

Below are some tweet highlights from the course: