Socially Responsible Surgery











BUSM has always been a leader in addressing healthcare disparities, but a new group on campus aims to put a much needed spotlight on these issues in surgical patients. The group, Socially Responsible Surgery (SRS), is committed to establishing social responsibility as a core value of surgical practice. This includes equitable access to surgical care, eliminating healthcare disparities, increasing patient advocacy as well as educating and serving the local community as part of the larger global community. Launched in 2014 by Tracey Dechert, MD, BUSM Assistant Professor of Surgery and trauma surgeon at BMC, the group has provided a home for medical students and residents looking to combine their interest in surgery with their passion for serving the underserved. The aims of SRS are built on its four pillars of Education, Research, Advocacy and Service. Education includes embedding structured lectures and activities into the core curriculum for the medical students and surgical residents to expose the future generations of surgeons to the existing disparities in surgical care. A novel project, recently presented at the annual meeting of the Association for Surgical Education, includes studying the change in attitudes of medical students toward healthcare disparities after they receive education during their surgery clerkship on barriers to care for surgical patients. SRS has also implemented a program to improve surgical outcomes, patient satisfaction and health literacy amongst high-risk patients. Medical students selected to this program are trained and paired with vulnerable patients to provide them with peri-operative support, education and to identify appropriate resources to address their specific needs prior to discharge. The program has been very well received by patients, students and the clinical teams and currently SRS is seeking resources to expand the project to include patients in the emergency department as well. SRS also seeks to pair with local community advocacy groups. Recently SRS has paired with the BMC food pantry and local affordable food organizations to address food insecurity in surgical patients. SRS is actively identifying such patients early in the preoperative stage to help them obtain access to healthy food in order to improve nutrition and healing.

Future goals of the SRS group are to seek partnerships within Boston University School of Public Health and the community, to become involved in local policy-making, and to continue to expand nationally, with other chapters currently in development at programs around the country.  Also in the works is a Fellowship offering for surgical residents interested in SRS to spend two years of academic time researching surgical disparities and implementing innovative projects to address these disparities in real time. SRS urges other academic institutions to incorporate the principles of SRS as a unifying field and to draw attention to these issues nationwide. SRS invites alumni to actively engage with the organization and encourages them to engage with SRS to help battle these disparities in innovative and efficient ways.

“SRS helped me tap into a deeper level of patient communication. The opportunity to have personal, one-on-one interactions with patients made me a better listener, a better educator and a better student. It brought awareness to many of the issues that extend far beyond the hospital stay in our patient’s lives.” – BUSM Student

“As one of the founding members of Socially Responsible Surgery, it has been very exciting to watch this group grow. My experience has been incredibly fulfilling both personally and academically, and I am a better clinician because of it. It is wonderful see the level of interest there is for this work, and the enthusiasm is only growing. We are excited about our future directions but more importantly about the positive impact we are seeing every day on our individual patient’s health.” -Megan Janeway MD, class of 2015, General Surgery Resident at BMC.