Center for Surgery and Public Health

Equity in Surgical Access, Treatment, and Outcomes

In 2008, the Center for Surgery and Public Health convened an invitational conference on Disparities in Surgical Care: Access to Outcomes. One of the first of its kind for surgery, this symposium brought together experts from around the world to raise awareness of disparities in surgical care and to discuss how to translate research into practice change to alleviate those inequities in access and outcomes. 

Since then, CSPH has merged research with advocacy, serving as a leading voice in setting national research agendas and bringing needed focus and funding to critical research areas. Joined by the National Institutes of Health and the American College of Surgeons, a 2015 symposium organized by CSPH resulted in the first national research agenda focused on surgical disparities. CSPH has since partnered with global, national, state, and local partners to implement this agenda through advocacy, research, and clinical practice change.

Building on work capturing and understanding surgical disparities data, CSPH received an NIH–NIMHD grant for the study, “Evaluation of Cultural Dexterity Training Program for Surgeons: The PACTS Trial.” The study focuses on improving cross-cultural care, which refers to a physician’s ability to care for patients from a culture or background different from their own, and reducing healthcare disparities. The multi-center trial is being conducted at eight academic medical centers across the U.S. to evaluate the effectiveness of a novel curriculum called the Provider Awareness and Cultural Dexterity Toolkit for Surgeons (PACTS) in improving surgical residents’ knowledge, attitudes, and skills in caring for patients of different cultural backgrounds.

Sites: Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Brown Alpert Medical School, Howard University College of Medicine, Washington University in St. Louis School of Medicine, Massachusetts General Hospital, Eastern Virginia Medical School, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine

PI(s): Doug Smink, MD, MPH & Adil Haider, MD, MPH

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Chief Diversity or Equity Officers have become critical leaders in hospitals and healthcare systems, in their efforts to create diverse and inclusive environments for staff and patients.  Virtually every hospital system has created one of these positions, many or most in the past year.  They are generally expected to pursue such varied goals as strategic planning, climate surveys, developing cultural competency curricula, and even building outward facing community-building partnerships. 

This project “Understanding the Who, What, and Why of Hospital Equity Officers: A National Survey and In-Depth Interviews,” consists of a national survey of 1,000 Equity Officers and additional in-depth interviews, providing a unique opportunity to identify not only what Equity Officers are doing, but also to understand why they are undertaking different strategies or focusing on different priorities. Ultimately, this work will help identify best practices as well as opportunities for improvement among Chief Equity Officers in healthcare systems engaging in initiatives that improve healthcare access and quality for their communities. EONS is a joint effort from Harvard/MGB and the American Hospital Association (AHA).

Funding: Commonwealth Fund

Co-PIs (Harvard/MGB): Joseph R. Betancourt, MD; Joel S Weissman, PhD

Co-Investigators: Rachel Adler, DSc, RD (Harvard/MGB); Joy Lewis, MSW, MPH (AHA); Gloria Kupferman (AHA), Peter Kralovec (AHA)

Consultant: Cait DesRoches, PhD


Joel Weissman ( or Rachel Adler (

In 2017, 66 million people in the US spoke a language other than English at home, 40% of whom experienced limited English proficiency (LEP). According to the US Census, over 27 million (1 in 12) people speak English “less than very well”. To communicate with their healthcare providers, patients with LEP must often use formal and informal interpreter services, including qualified medical interpreters (in-person or via video or phone), health providers’ second language skills, ad hoc interpreters (i.e. family members, other hospital staff), and body gestures. Language discordant care can lead to patients having a decreased understanding of disease and treatment resulting in worse medication adherence, failed shared decision-making, and overall worse satisfaction with care. It can also result in worse presentation for surgery and outcomes after surgery, longer hospital stays, and increased re-admission. Ultimately, language discordance undermines patient-provider communication and plays a central role in healthcare disparities.

This study will evaluate whether an immediate mobile application enables language-concordant communication for primary Spanish-speaking patients with LEP. 

PI: Gezzer Ortega, MD, MPH

Read more about the EQUIP Study (Equitable Use of Interpreter Services and Resources for Patients and Healthcare Professionals)

Funded by the NIMHD, the Metrics for Equitable Access and care in SURgery (MEASUR) project is a collaboration led by the American College of Surgeons in conjunction with Brigham and Women’s Hospital, the National Quality Forum, and the University of California – Los Angeles. Through research and expert consensus, we will identify and develop measures that capture disparities in access and across the five phases of surgical care. These disparities-sensitive metrics will facilitate the development of targeted interventions aimed at eradicating surgical disparities. The project’s vision is to ensure optimal access and equitable healthcare, for all surgical patients, in every setting, across the entire continuum of care.