Missions, Humanitarianism, and the Evolution of Modern Global Surgery.

Journal Article (Editorial)

Modern global surgery, which aims to provide improved and equitable surgical care worldwide, is a product of centuries of international care initiatives, some borne out of religious traditions, dating back to the first millennium. The first hospitals (xenodochia) were established in the 4th and 5th centuries CE by the early Christian church. Early "missions," a term introduced by Jesuit Christians in the 16th century to refer to the institutionalized expansion of faith, included medical care. Formalized Muslim humanitarian medical care was marked by organizations like the Aga Khan Foundation and the Islamic Association of North America in the 20th century. Secular medical humanitarian programs developed in the 19th century, notably with the creation of the International Committee of the Red Cross (1863) and the League of Nations Health Organization (1920) (which later became the World Health Organization [1946]). World War II catalyzed another proliferation of nongovernmental organizations, epitomized by the quintessential humanitarian health provider, Médecins Sans Frontières (1971). "Global health" as an academic endeavor encompassing education, service, and research began as an outgrowth of departments of tropical medicine and international health. The American College of Surgeons brought a surgical focus to global health beginning in the 1980s. Providing medical care in distant countries has a long tradition that parallels broad themes in history: faith, imperialism, humanitarianism, education, and service. Surgery as a focus of academic global health is a recent development that continues to gain traction.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Ellis, DI; Nakayama, DK; Fitzgerald, TN

Published Date

  • May 1, 2021

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 87 / 5

Start / End Page

  • 681 - 685

PubMed ID

  • 33342274

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1555-9823

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1177/0003134820979181


  • eng

Conference Location

  • United States