Operation Giving Back provides global humanitarian volunteer responses to the medically underserved.
A combined reflection of the humanitarian tenets central to the profession of surgery, and the growing trend of engaged global citizenship, was the genesis for the American College of Surgeons (ACS) Operation Giving Back (OGB) program. OGB was created under the leadership of Andrew L. Warshaw, MD, FACS, and Robert V. Stephens, MD, FACS, in 2004 with the intention to serve as a comprehensive resource center through which surgeons could be equipped to engage in surgical volunteerism and humanitarianism efforts domestically or internationally. The ultimate goal is to foster further inspiration and education for all parties interested in such endeavors, including: volunteers, partners, philanthropists, policy makes, and the public.
Kathleen M. Casey, MD, FACS joined the American College of Surgeons in July 2004 as founding director of the Operation Giving Back program. In this capacity, Dr. Casey was responsible for the design, development, and implementation of Operation Giving Back.
The mission of Operation Giving Back is to leverage the passion, skills, and humanitarian ethos of the surgical community to effectively meet the needs of the medically underserved. We provide the necessary tools to facilitate humanitarian outreach among surgeons of all specialties, at all stages of the profession, and with emphasis on both domestic and international service. By delivering information on opportunities to volunteer through patient care, education, training, systems strengthening, advocacy efforts, and donation of needed equipment and supplies, OGB focuses these resources to address critical public health issues as they relate to the provision of safe, timely, necessary surgical care around the globe.
As a central feature of the program, the OGB website was created to provide a dynamic hub of information, resources, and networks for those interested in addressing the unmet surgical needs of the underserved around the globe. Through a network of high impact partner organizations, OGB directs surgeons to volunteer opportunities that align with their skills, passions, and beliefs. OGB cultivates innovative models and multisector collaborations with academic institutions, corporations, foundations, government and non-profit entities in order to inform public policy, create sustainable avenues of knowledge transfer, and diminish global disparities while lessening the burden of surgical disease.
By identifying existing needs and persistent barriers to engagement, OGB creates a forum to work towards needed social change. By providing resources and recognition to the large numbers of surgeons already engaged in such outreach, OGB contributes to the nourishment of this vibrant community of surgical volunteers, offers inspiration and resources to potential volunteers, and strengthens a culture of humanitarianism that is at the root of the healing professions.
Girma Tefera, Medical Director
Girma Tefera, MD, FACS joined the staff of the ACS Division of Member Services in February 2015 as the new Medical Director of the OGB program. A recipient of the ACS Surgical Volunteerism Award in 2011, Dr. Tefera is professor of surgery, department of surgery, University of Wisconsin, Madison. In addition, he is vice-chair, division of vascular surgery and chief of vascular surgery, Middleton Veteran Affairs Hospital in Madison.
In his current leadership role with the OGB program, Dr. Tefera will develop and lead ACS Clinical Congress programs in global surgery, coordinate the College’s response to natural disasters worldwide, develop new programs and opportunities for surgeon volunteers, communicate the work of OGB, and increase College participation and recognition among other similar global organizations. Dr. Tefera also will oversee a redesign of the OGB website to match members’ needs with volunteer opportunities.
Dr. Tefera chairs the board of directors of the Ethiopian-American Doctors Group and is associate member of the Ethiopian Academy of Sciences. Visit the University of Wisconsin website to read Dr. Tefera’s online biography as well as more information about his international service.
Brittanie Wilczak, Program Administrator
Brittanie Wilczak, MPH, joined the staff of the ACS Division of Member Services in July 2015 as Program Administrator of the OGB program. Between educational and work-related opportunities, Brittanie has more than five years of global health experience. Brittanie’s experience in global health merges at the intersection between health disparities and health equity issues. In her current role with the OGB program, Brittanie will work with Dr. Tefera to develop and expand OGB’s impact.