Alumni Spotlight: Anisa Nazir

Anisa Nazir is a recent graduate of the Graduate Certificate in Global Surgical Care (GCGSC). We had the pleasure to speak with Anisa about her career in global surgery and experience as part of the GCGSC program at BISC.







Tell us a bit about yourself and your interest in global surgical care. Why did you decide to pursue medicine and do the Graduate Certificate in Global Surgical Care at UBC?

I am an MSc candidate at the University of Toronto and an aspiring general surgeon. I completed my undergraduate medical education from Pakistan and recently completed an MCh from the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RSCI). I first became interested in global surgical care as a third-year medical student studying in Pakistan. I was shocked to learn about the statistics published in the Lancet Commission in 2015, of 5 billion people who lacked access to safe, equitable surgical care globally, despite seeing patients with advanced presentations and untreated injuries in the wards. It was one of the moments that made me reflect on what a surgeon’s role was and what kind of surgeon I want to be.

After I finished medical school in Pakistan and moved to Canada, I formed the Canadian national working group of InciSioN – CGSTA. In 2018, I attended Bethune Roundtable Conference in Toronto as a representative of the Canadian Global Surgical Training Alliance (CGSTA). It was an excellent opportunity to meet students, trainees, and faculty passionate about global surgery. I learned about various programs and projects. I came across UBC’s Graduate Certificate course there. I later started the program with the two courses, SURG 516: Program Planning and Evaluation in Surgical Care Low Resource Settings and SURG 514 :Surgical Care in Humanitarian Disaster Response.

That year, I also went to Kenya for a two-week brigade with Bridge to Health. The organization collaborated with the local government in Kisumu, the African Cancer Foundation that provided breast, cervical and prostate cancer screening and other patient navigation organizations to provide sustainable care to the people of those communities. I was part of the team that provided medical and dental care to community outreach clinics. Through my experiences, I learnt about the challenges healthcare workers faced in remote communities with limited resources, particularly the lack of medical and surgical training. After returning from Kenya, I helped design clinical guidelines with the local clinical officers to provide background knowledge of the local communities to the medical volunteers. My coursework in SURG 516 was particularly helpful in designing the program.

I took a break from the GCGSC program and went to Ireland to complete my MCh in Surgical Science and Practice program at the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI) for one year. We used high and low-fidelity simulation models to learn various surgical skills. One key aspect of my training was learning about human factors and surgical safety, including the WHO Surgical Safety Checklist. I wrote my thesis proposal on the barriers and enablers of implementing the WHO Surgical Safety Checklist in the COSECSA region. Once I returned to Toronto from Dublin this summer, I decided to complete the Graduate Certificate in Global Surgical Care program. This fall, I took the last two courses, SURG 510: Surgical Care in International Health and SURG 512: Global Disability- A Surgical Care Mandate, that consolidated my learning and experiences.

What are your plans following graduation? Do you have plans to be involved in global surgical care in the future?

My goal is to pursue a career as an academic general surgeon and continue research in patient safety and simulation. For now, I hope to stay involved in global surgery through my role as co-Chair of CGSTA. We are working on local chapter development at universities across Canada to provide medical students and trainees opportunities by connecting with potential researchers, supervisors, and collaborators in the avenues of research, education and advocacy. We are currently hosting virtual speaker series for students, participating in advocacy campaigns and working on student-led research projects. I also serve on the Mentorship Council for Gender Equity Initiative in Global Surgery (GEIGS). I have helped design the current mentorship program to address gender-based inequity in surgical careers worldwide.

In addition, I am currently working on the project with Dr. Teodor Grantcharov and Dr. Vanessa Palter on personal protective equipment (PPE) donning and doffing, using OR BlackBox technology, adapted and repurposed to help with the COVID-19 pandemic. I am excited to be learning about various methodologies in quality improvement and patient safety and look at the role of simulation in surgical education. In the future, I hope to merge my interests in patient safety, quality improvement and education and be involved in projects in Canada and other places around the world to provide safe and accessible surgical care.

If you were speaking to other trainees or those interested in pursuing global surgical care, what advice would you give them?

One of the things that I would advise anyone interested in global surgery is to find and reach out to the people working within the realm of global surgery. Anyone in global surgery is always willing to tell you about their project and ways you could be involved. There’s a camaraderie in the global surgery community that is unique. As a medical student or a trainee, you can collaborate on education and research projects, attend events and conferences, and join your local chapter or national working group (CGSTA) affiliated with the International Surgery Students Network (InciSioN). Finding mentors is always a good idea as it can provide guidance.

What would you say is a highlight of the GCGSC for you?

Learning from other student’s perspectives and engaging in discussions on various topics and readings was one highlight for me in this program. This year, we also had a Zoom call, which was fun and a great way to get to know one another. This past term, we had students from around the world, including (but not limited to) Tanzania, Peru, rural Canada, and the Middle East. One key thing is how similar we all are in our passion for surgery, caring for our communities and people, and the determination despite all the challenges. I am so grateful to have worked with them and shared their experiences.

Is there anything else you would like to share?

I want to thank the Branch of International Surgery for all their support, especially to all our instructors who provided us with a learning environment and constructive feedback. I hope to stay involved and collaborate in the future. I would also like to add for anyone wishing to get in touch can email, and I would be happy to answer any questions.