Dr. William F. Powell, Jr.
Tell me about yourself.
I grew up in Southern Mississippi and moved to New England to attend college at Middlebury College. After that, I spent a few years working as a research assistant in Boston while getting my MPH from Boston University. I went to medical school at Albany Medical College, and since then I have spent the last several years in training at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (General Surgery Internship), Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (Anesthesiology Residency), and, currently, Tufts Medical Center (Pediatric Anesthesia Fellowship).
When did you start getting involved with global health?
I had always aspired to get involved in global anesthesia, but it wasn’t until my CA1 year that I finally took the plunge. We have a group here in Boston called the Harvard Global Anesthesia Initiative (HGAI) that is resident-run, faculty-mentored, and open to anyone interested in global anesthesia. HGAI meets periodically to network and discuss journal articles and issues related to global anesthesia. It’s been a great group to be a part of and has been instrumental in my learning more about global anesthesia efforts and getting further involved.
Did you do any global health work during residency and if so do you encourage it?
In addition to HGAI, I have attended conferences and courses related to global anesthesia and surgery, helped with research on global anesthesia issues, and co-authored a tutorial for the World Federation of Societies of Anesthesiology (WFSA), which is forthcoming in the near future. I was also very fortunate to be selected for the ASA-GHO Resident International Anesthesia Scholarship Program and spent a month in Uganda earlier this year working with anesthesiologists and participating in educational activities.
I certainly encourage anyone who is interested in global anesthesia to get involved during residency. There is a great deal to learn about the challenges facing anesthesia providers in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs), and there are numerous ways to get involved in addressing these challenges.
What are ways that residents can get involved with global health during training?
I think a lot of people envision global health work as travelling to a LMIC to complete a specific project or task. Don’t get me wrong, such an experience can be very exciting and rewarding, and if you have the opportunity you should definitely take it. However, there is so much work that can be done from here as well. Simply start by asking around for any global anesthesia enthusiasts in your program or city, and if there isn’t already a local interest group, start one. Meeting with like-minded individuals is a great platform for further educations yourself about global anesthesia issues. I mentioned the WFSA previously, who publish a series of Tutorials of the Week on anesthesia topics targeted at anesthesia providers across the world, and they are looking for people to help write these tutorials. You can also help raise money for global anesthesia causes. A great example is the ongoing ASA-Lifebox Resident Challenge which is helping raise money for an organization called Lifebox that, among other things, provides pulse oximeters to anesthesia providers in LMICs. If you haven’t heard of Lifebox, you should look them up and get involved in the fundraising challenge. I’ve been working on raising money here in Boston, and if your program doesn’t have a team yet, I encourage you to create one!
What are landmark papers that you think any resident interested in global health should read?
Two papers I would recommend starting with are the WHO-WFSA Standards paper, which outlines the equipment, personnel, and medications necessary to provide safe anesthesia; and the Global Surgery 2030 paper, which outlines the need to address disparities in access to safe surgical and anesthesia care in LMICs.
Gelb AW, et al, “World Health Organization-World Federation of Societies of Anaesthesiologists (WHO-WFSA) International Standards for a Safe Practice of Anesthesia.” Can J Anesth, 2018; 65(6): 698-708.
Meara JG, et al, “ Global Surgery 2030: evidence and solutions for achieving health, welfare, and economic development.” Lancet, 2015; 386: 569–624.
Date of Publication: Fall 2019