Surgical Education in Medical Deserts: The UBC-MSF Experience in South Sudan and the Central African Republic

Tuesday, December 12, 2023, 12:00 - 12:50 pm via Zoom
with Shahrzad Joharifard, MD, MPH
Many of the poorest countries on earth are also in the midst of conflict or recovering from conflict. These contexts can be described as “medical deserts.” Not only are there very few surgeons practicing in these settings, but there is also often a complete absence of surgical training programs. This session will discuss the UBC-Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) Essential Surgical Skills training program, whose goal is to train physician-surgeons who can help fill a critical human resource gap in medical deserts. 

Dr. Shahrzad Joharifard is a Canadian surgeon of Iranian-Australian heritage with a long-standing passion for global health, particularly in conflict and post-conflict settings. She holds an AB in History cum laude from Princeton University, an MD from Duke University, and an MPH in Clinical Effectiveness from the Harvard School of Public Health. She completed her residency in General Surgery at the University of British Columbia (UBC) in 2017, followed by fellowship in Pediatric Surgery at CHU Sainte-Justine at the Université de Montréal in 2020.

Dr. Joharifard has extensive work experience in sub-Saharan Africa. Prior to entering medicine, she spent two years working with the International Rescue Committee in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Sierra Leone. During her medical training, she worked as a clinician at Kolofata District Hospital in the Extreme North of Cameroon, Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital in Soweto, South Africa, Mbingo Baptist Hospital in Northwest Cameroon, Gondor University Hospital in Gondor, Ethiopia, and Partners in Health-affiliated hospitals in Rwinkwavu and Butaro, Rwanda. Immediately after completing General Surgery residency, she began working as a surgeon for Partners in Health at JJ Dossen Memorial Hospital, a remote referral hospital in Harper, Liberia. There, she initiated a surgical program and served as one of only 11 surgeons in the entire country of 4.7 million people.

Dr. Joharifard is an attending Pediatric Surgeon at British Columbia Children’s Hospital and a Clinical Assistant Professor of Surgery at UBC. She is an Adjunct Professor at the UBC Branch for Global Surgical Care and co-founded the UBC Global Surgery Lab, a research and mentorship hub for undergraduate, medical, and graduate students. Clinically, Dr. Joharifard practices full-spectrum pediatric surgery, with particular interests in neonatal and thoracic surgery, in addition to antenatal consultation and counselling. Her research interests lie in implementation science, technology and innovation, quality improvement, and outcomes. Additionally, she currently spends 3 months per year in the field with Médécins Sans Frontières / Doctors Without Borders where she operates on patients of all ages. Her most recent assignments were in Aweil, South Sudan in 2021 and 2023; Rutshuru, Democratic Republic of the Congo in 2022; and Bangui, Central African Republic in 2023. In the DRC, she gained valuable experience in war surgery after finding herself in the midst of fierce conflict between the M23 rebel movement and the Congolese army.