Surgeons OverSeas (SOS)

Surgeons OverSeas (SOS)

Surgeons OverSeas saves lives in developing countries by improving surgical care

Over 2 billion people around the world do not have access to basic surgical care. Approximately 56 million people in Africa need an operation today. 

Surgeons OverSeas (SOS) provides support to local surgeons, hospitals and Ministries of Health in low and middle-income countries to assist in developing long-term surgical capacity. SOS programs concentrate on emergency and basic surgical care - life saving and disability preventing procedures that can easily be undertaken and taught in resource-limited environments. SOS also provides a forum for surgeons and residents in developed countries to more easily connect with colleagues in developing countries.

The Surgeons OverSeas (SOS) philosophy is one of assisting local surgeons and physicians to safely provide the surgical care that is vitally needed for many of the world’s poorest populations. 

Current SOS projects include:

- Colorectal cancer screening and treatment in Nigeria

- Assessment of surgical needs in Nepal

- Community survey of injuries in Baghdad, Iraq

- Pediatric surgical capacity in sub-Saharan Africa

Previous SOS programs have included: 

Support-a-surgeon: Support for local operating room healthcare workers. Monetary levels were determined based on consultation with local administrators and Ministries of Health personnel. A local contact person was identified to assure equitable distribution of funds. Persons who receive funds confirm their desire to abide by the principles of SOS and agree to use standard precautions. 

S.H.A.R.P (Surgery and HIV/AIDS Response Program): Provided operating room healthcare workers with protective gear to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS, hepatitis and other blood borne diseases. Eye protection, aprons, rubber boots were locally procured when possible and provided to health facilities. Educational sessions and an advocacy campaign also addressed the need for legislation to provide such safety equipment for all healthcare workers. 

Basic Surgical Care Workshops: Training workshops to teach basic surgical skills were organized with local surgeons who take the lead roles as educators.

Mass Casualty Exercises:  A large scale mass casualty exercise was organized in Sierra Leone with participants from government and NGO sectors. 

Esophageal stent placement for inoperable cancer in Malawi: Eighteen surgeons and physicians and 48 nurses were trained on insertion techniques and care for inoperable esophageal cancer in two sites in Malawi. Two hundred and twenty stents were placed and data collected and published.


Personnel, Infrastructure, Procedure, Equipment and Supplies (PIPES): Hospital capacity surveys were developed to understand baseline conditions at health facilities and to assist in developing an intervention strategy. SOS has been involved with hospital based surveys in Sierra Leone, Liberia, Nigeria and Bolivia. All data collected are published in peer-reviewed journals and shared with the local surgeons and Ministry of Health.

Surgeons OverSeas Assessment of Surgical need (SOSAS): population based community surveys were developed to understand the incidence and prevalence of surgically treatable conditions. To date full country surveys have been undertaken in Sierra Leone and Rwanda.

Colorectal Cancer Screening and Treatment: ​In partnership with Obafemi Awolowo University Hospital in Ile-Ife, Nigeria and Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in the US,  a colorectal cancer screening project is underway in Nigeria. SOS provided a colonoscope and is providing pathology and analysis support. Additionally, all patients identified with colon cancer are undergoing treatment. 

Read about global surgery

and public health in the Johns Hopkins Public Health magazine or view a video.