I’m fully committed to integrating the practice of public health into surgery and tapped into my passion for health equity to help launch the Center for Surgical Health (CSH) at Penn Medicine, a program that focuses on improving access to high-quality outpatient surgical services for underserved and undersupported individuals in the Philadelphia community. Patients are referred to CSH from federally qualified and community health centers and health networks, with the aim to eliminate the use of local emergency departments as pre-op clinics for elective care.
The CSH team identifies the clinical and social support needs of each patient, connects them with surgeons who provide world-class care and links them to personal navigators who guide them through the surgical continuum, from pre-op diagnosis to post-op follow-up.
Elective surgery is synonymous with outpatient surgery, which is growing in complexity and urgency for patients suffering from debilitating and potentially life-threatening health conditions. One of the center’s goals is to transition elective surgery to a preventative health model for disease — surgery is not optional for a patient with biliary colic who needs their gallbladder removed to prevent acute cholecystitis — and perform procedures patients need to decrease subsequent morbidity and mortality that results from delays in care.
The implications of subjecting marginalized patients — who are often living paycheck to paycheck, who are food and housing insecure — to multiple-day hospitalizations for procedures that could be handled in the outpatient space could be catastrophic. We’re trying to provide care to members of our community most at risk of suffering from morbidity associated with the social determinants of surgical health.
Penn Medicine and private foundation grants cover the program’s operational costs and education programming. We take pride in understanding and navigating Medicaid legislation, and try to ensure eligible patients are covered through public benefit for their operations. We understand the complexities of employer-based health plans and help patients navigate those services, as well.