Johanna Riesel, MD, general surgery resident (bottom middle), with medical students in Liberia.

Global Surgery Initiative

The global surgery team in Massachusetts General Hospital’s Department of Surgery aims to improve surgical education and access to advanced surgical care in resource-limited settings around the world.
Explore Our Global Surgery Projects Email Us

Call for more information: 617-724-4093


An increasing number of academic surgical providers, resident trainees and medical students are interested in contributing to sustainable, capacity-building endeavors in low- and-middle-income countries. Joining this movement, members of the Department of Surgery at Massachusetts General Hospital have created the Global Surgery Initiative (GSI) as their own response to global health care needs.

Mission and Goals

The mission of the GSI is to establish international partnerships across disciplines in resource-limited settings, not only to perform surgical operations as visitors, but also to train local surgeons and share medical technology beyond Mass General.

Building on past experience, the GSI aims to transform volunteer global surgery efforts into sustainable surgical training partnerships that strengthen surgical systems both at home and abroad. This effort is based on an established formal curriculum in global surgery to provide surgical residents with structured opportunities in research, education and clinical work for a career in global surgery.

To assemble the human resources available at Mass General, this endeavor involves:

  • Administrating a department-wide survey to assess resident and faculty interest and expertise
  • Developing an online crowd-sourced activities map for chronicling departmental efforts
  • Establishing an academic partnership with the Department of Surgery at Mbarara University of Science and Technology (MUST) in Uganda

By organizing the collective experiences of colleagues, synchronizing current and past global work at Mass General, and leveraging the funding resources available at home and at partner institutions, the Mass General GSI seeks to engage in longitudinal collaborations that can provide academic benefit to our foreign partners as well as our surgical trainees.

Global Surgery Projects

Mass General global surgery efforts span across more than 30 countries. Our recent efforts have focused on developing and implementing more comprehensive surgical curricula at underserved sites such as Mbarara, Uganda.

Map of global surgery projects

Explore an interactive map of our current global surgery projects

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Disaster Medical Response

The Mass General team set up a medical field after the Haiti earthquake.
The U.S. Government team set up a field hospital in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.

The Global Surgery Initiative provides medical care designed to meet the challenges of today’s complex disasters, both nationally and internationally. Disaster teams from Massachusetts General Hospital, in collaboration with the United States government and other non-profit organizations, have the capacity to respond to the full spectrum of humanitarian crises resulting from both natural and man-made disasters. Mass General provides multidisciplinary response teams designed to provide the highest level of clinical expertise to meet the diverse needs of disaster victims.

Susan Briggs, MD, MPH has devoted much of her surgical career to providing humanitarian relief, especially during devastating disasters, to the world's most vulnerable people at times of greatest need.

Support the Global Surgery Fund Today.

Members of the Department of Surgery have provided disaster medical response in many recent disasters such as:

Project Hope
    • El Salvador Earthquake (1986), Project HOPE
    • Armenia Earthquake (1988), Project HOPE
    • Russian Train Disaster, Ufa, Russia (1989), Project HOPE
    • Hurricane Andrew, Homestead, Florida (1992), U.S. National Disaster Medical System (NDMS)
National Disaster Medical System (NDMS)/International Medical Surgical Response Team (IMSuRT)
      • Hurricane Marilyn, St. Thomas, Virgin Islands (1995), U.S. NDMS
      • Hurricane Georges, Gulf Coast (1998), U.S. NDMS
      • World Trade Center Terrorist Attack (Ground Zero), New York (2001), US NDMS/International
      • Bam, Iran Earthquake (2003), U.S. NDMS/IMSuRT
      • Banda Aceh Tsunami, Indonesia (2004), Project HOPE
      • Hurricane Katrina, Louisiana (2005), U.S. NDMS/IMSuRT
International Medical Corps
      • Haiti Earthquake (2010), U.S. NDMS/IMSuRT
      • Typhoon Haiyan, Philippines (2013), International Medical Corps (IMC)

International Trauma and Disaster Institute

Department of Surgery

The International Trauma and Disaster Institute (ITDI) at Mass General is a center of excellence for disaster medicine. Under the direction of Susan M. Briggs, MD, MPH, FACS, the ITDI has developed training programs and manuals designed to train multidisciplinary medical responders in the key principles of disaster preparedness and response. The first edition of the Advanced Disaster Medical Response Manual is available in eight languages. The second edition, published in English in 2014 by the Mass General Department of Surgery and the Harvard Medical School Program in Global Surgery, is currently under publication in Spanish, Portuguese and Chinese. Learn more

Advanced Disaster Medical Response Provider Courses

Map of Advanced Disaster Medical Response Provider Coursesglobal surgery projects

Affiliated Organizations


Members of the Mass General ITDI at a Train the Trainer Course in Hong Kong
Members of the Mass General ITDI at a Train the Trainer Course in Hong Kong

North America

South America

Our Team

Program Leaders

  • James C. Cusack, Jr., MD, FACS

    James Cusack, Jr., MD, FACS, is an associate professor of surgery at Harvard Medical School and a surgical oncologist at Mass General, who specializes in the complex multidisciplinary management of malignancies. He is the director of the Peritoneal Surface Malignancy Program, the Global Surgery Initiative in the Department of Surgery and the Mass General Oncology Outreach Program in Uganda. In his global health work in Uganda, Rwanda, Liberia, Kazakhstan, Philippines, Bangladesh and Botswana, Dr. Cusack is an advocate for the sustainable transfer of skill sets and knowledge to health care providers, rather than simply providing specialty clinical care in the traditional “medical mission” model.

  • Susan M. Briggs, MD, MPH, FACS

    Susan Briggs, MD, MPH, FACS, is an associate professor of surgery at Harvard Medical School and director of the International Trauma and Disaster Institute at Mass General. She completed her surgical training at Mass General and her Master of Public Health in International Health at the Harvard School of Public Health. Dr. Briggs has been active, both nationally and internationally, in trauma and disaster relief activities with the U.S. government and non-governmental agencies such as Project Hope and the American Refugee Committee. Currently, she is the supervising medical officer of the Department of Health and Human Services/Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR)/Office of Preparedness and Operations (OPEO) Specialty Medical Teams, including the International Medical Surgical Response Team (IMSuRT). She has participated in numerous national and international disasters, including the Armenia earthquake, the World Trade Center bombing, the Bam, Iran earthquake as head of the U.S. Disaster Team, the Katrina hurricane relief in Louisiana and the humanitarian response to the earthquake in Haiti.

  • Deepika Nehra, MD, On-site Trauma Surgeon and Instructor

    Deepika Nehra, MD, is a surgeon who completed her Mass General Surgery Residency in 2014 and a Trauma and Critical Care Fellowship at Harbourview Medical Hospital in Seattle, Washington in 2015. She was appointed to oversee Mass General Global Surgery Initiatives for the year 2015-2016 in Mbarara, Uganda, where she has been living and working at Mbarara University of Science and Technology (MUST)/Mbarara Regional Referral Hospital (MRRH). She focuses on improving systems for the management of critically ill surgical patients through clinical work, resident instruction and curriculum design.

Steering Committee


Many department members are also actively involved in the Global Surgery Initiative at Massachusetts General Hospital:


The Mass General team teaching surgical skills to medical students in Uganda
The Mass General team teaching surgical skills to medical students in Uganda.

We offer educational opportunities for residents, fellows and medical students who are interested in pursuing international work. Opportunities are available for clinical, research and surgical education projects in resource-constrained countries. Learn more

For more information about a specific global surgery project, please contact one of the program participants listed on our interactive project map

Our Partners


  • Exploring opportunities to expand cancer care - 5/16/2014, Mass General

    The MGH Cancer Center recently sent a team to the city of Mbarara in southwestern Uganda to explore a collaboration with the local university and hospital to build a new national referral cancer center.



View past issues of the Global Surgery Initiatives newsletter:


View select publications from our team members:


Global Surgery Initiative

James Cusack, MD
Director, Global Surgery Initiative
Massachusetts General Hospital
55 Fruit Street
Yawkey Building, 7th Floor
Boston, MA 02114

Phone: 617-724-4093

Explore Our Global Surgery Projects Email Us

Call for more information: 617-724-4093

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