UW Health Vascular Surgeon Honored for Work in Ethiopia

UW Health vascular surgeon Girma TeferaMadison, Wisconsin - Dr. Girma Tefera, associate professor of surgery at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, received the 2011 Surgical Volunteerism Award from the American College of Surgeons (ACS) for his efforts to provide care to the medically underserved people of Ethiopia.


The award was presented during the American College of Surgeons Board of Governors dinner, which is one of the highlights of the College's 2011 Annual Clinical Congress being held this week in San Francisco.


The volunteerism award is given "in recognition of those surgeons and surgical residents committed to giving something of themselves back to society by making significant contributions to surgical care through organized volunteer activities." The award program is sponsored by Pfizer, Inc.


Tefera received the honor for his efforts to improve the delivery of surgical care in Ethiopia, his homeland. During semiannual trips, his work has been dedicated to creating strong and effective partnerships that further health care delivery in that country.


"Dr. Tefera's efforts to improve the health care infrastructure in Ethiopia is a testament to the kind of person he is," said Dr. Jon Matsumura, chair of the division of vascular surgery at the UW-Madison School of Medicine and Public Health. "His commitment to excellence in health care, both in the operating room in Wisconsin and across the globe, makes him a natural choice for this award."


Initially, Tefera's work in Ethiopia entailed serving as a volunteer surgeon to help rectify physician shortages. Gradually, as he built relationships in both Ethiopia and the U.S., he started recruiting U.S. colleagues for organized surgical visits to Addis Ababa University to provide educational and training support, supplies, and equipment for Ethiopian surgeons. This work eventually turned into a bilateral exchange that allowed Ethiopian surgeons to travel to Wisconsin for training in trauma management, surgical oncology, and laparoscopic surgery.


Over the course of the past four years, Tefera's broad-based efforts have further resulted in significant investment in the long-term health care needs of Ethiopia, including expansion of the surgical workforce and a formal academic partnership between the University of Wisconsin and Addis Ababa University.


His strategy has been aimed at developing infrastructure and training health care workers according to the needs of specific areas. In 2009, the American International Health Alliance, with funding provided by the CDC and the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), awarded Tefera, his colleagues, and the diaspora organization P2P Inc. a grant to strengthen emergency medical services in Ethiopia by increasing the skill level of health care providers and building infrastructure.


This year, Tefera is leading an additional partnership with Addis Ababa University. This medical education collaboration is funded through the Ethiopia Medical Education Partnership Initiative (MEPI) grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The partnership will create more opportunities for medical education and an increase in the number of health care workers in Ethiopia.


"I am very grateful to the ACS for recognizing my efforts to improve the quality of health care in my homeland," said Tefera. "I am especially indebted to the University of Wisconsin, my partners in Ethiopia and my diaspora colleagues for supporting my work and helping to make the Ethiopian project a success."


Since the awards were inaugurated in 2003, the ACS has honored 25 individuals with the Surgical Volunteerism Award. This year, Dr. Louis L. Carter, of Lookout Mountain, Tenn., also received a Surgical Volunteerism Award for his humanitarian efforts throughout the world. The surgical volunteerism awardees are determined by the ACS Governors Committee on Socioeconomic Issues, and the awards are administered through the ACS Operation Giving Back program.


The ACS is a scientific and educational organization of surgeons that was founded in 1913 to raise the standards of surgical practice and to improve the care of the surgical patient. The College is dedicated to the ethical and competent practice of surgery. Its achievements have significantly influenced the course of scientific surgery in America and have established it as an important advocate for all surgical patients. With more than 77,000 members, the ACS is the largest organization of surgeons in the world.

Date Published: 10/26/2011

News tag(s):  heart

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