Global Surgical Training Challenge

Making simulation-based training accessible through low-cost training modules

What is the Global Surgical Training Challenge?

The Intuitive Foundation, in partnership with Nesta Challenges and MIT Solve, have launched the US$5 million Global Surgical Training Challenge to stimulate the creation of novel, low-cost surgical training modules. These open-source modules will help surgical practitioners  to learn and assess new skills to improve the health of their communities.

The Challenge aims to create a paradigm shift in how surgical practitioners learn and assess surgical techniques. All modules will be free to download and inexpensive to reproduce in a variety of global settings at the soon-to-be launched Global Surgical Training Community platform.

What are we hoping to achieve?

The most comprehensive surgical training programs can be expensive and resource intensive. Many rely on access to cadavers, live animal training models and technology-driven simulation-based training. Without access to such training, resource-constrained settings often have less hands-on experience before they are expected to operate on patients. The Global Surgical Training Challenge addresses the need for lower cost simulation-based training by incentivising the creation of such models.


Along with the development of new training models, competitors in the challenge will be asked to create self-assessment frameworks that allow surgical practitioners the ability to test their own skills acquisition outside of a classroom. 

Open Source Community Platform

The challenge will create an online community platform with surgical training modules. These open-source modules will enable medical professionals to build surgical training models and assess their new skills.  

Discovery Award Winners

The team is designing a model for training surgeons and medical officers with no formal training in pediatric surgery to teach them to perform a safe colostomy on a newborn. The tool is designed to teach gentle tissue handling skills. Research shows that over half of surgical complications in newborns are caused by excessive use of force during the procedure.

These skills can be transferred to other life-saving surgeries. By training surgeons in these gentle procedures, it can bring quality surgical care to the estimated one billion infants and children globally who currently lack safe, timely and affordable interventions.

The team will use their award to validate that there is a low cost model to assist in training and self-assessment.

OpenSurgiSim is a surgical training module for orthopaedic surgeons to learn accurate correction of bone deformities.

The process of this collaboration has brought together experts in clinical care and engineering, furthering the idea, according to Mr. Karade.

Team ASAP (AMPATH Surgical App) is designing a surgical module that provides a surgical training module to train clinicians who are expected to perform open appendectomies in primary and secondary health facilities throughout the world.

The Discovery Award will allow the team to develop a mobile application that will guide the learner through the evaluation and management of lower right quadrant pain, indicative of appendicitis. Using mobile technology the learner will be able to apply these skills immediately, or ASAP (as soon as possible).

CrashSavers Trauma is designing a model for the prehospital setting to teach bleeding control techniques. Their project involves the development of a Web-based and mobile app that is integrated with a low cost physical model to train users in hemorrhage control. This will teach health care providers methods to stop bleeding before a patient arrives at the hospital.

This training module will teach orthopaedic surgeons and medical officers on how to handle this common fracture. The Discovery Award will help the team assess how their 3-D bone simulation model can provide orthopaedic training.

Team IntelliVision is developing a training module for surgical residents and surgeons to learn to perform laparoscopic cholecystectomy.

Dr. Makam expects that when they are able to deliver this surgical training module, surgeons will be able to reduce pain and bleeding, as well as a quicker recovery, in patients through the use of laparoscopic techniques.

Team Operation Smile is designing a surgical training model to teach surgeons how to restore form, function and feeling through local flap surgery from wounds and defects due to burns, trauma, cancer and congenital conditions.

The team plans to implement a unique mixed methods approach to surgical training that will use a simulation platform that will incorporate virtual learning modules and simulations with a low cos, adaptable psychomotor training system.

Team ETALO (Education To Advance Limb-Saving Options for Open Fractures and Osteomyelitis) is designing a surgical training model for general surgeons, medical officers and other non-orthopedic practitioners to develop their skills to help drill bone and to place fixation pins to stabilize fractures. The Discovery Award will allow the team to develop a simulator designed to teach psychomotor skills for these procedures.

Team SELF-Training (Set Every Little-heart Free by Training) is designing a training module for general surgeons and trainees to learn to repair simple congenital heart defects, such as patent ductus arteriosus (PDA). With the Discovery Award, the team will design a hyper realistic, tissue-like physical model with built-in sensors paired with augmented reality. A mobile app will complement the module with educational materials and virtual mentorship.

The platform can safely and reliably develop the necessary skills to provide care to thousands of children who would otherwise go without.

Why we need the Global Surgical Training Challenge


Dr Mumba Chalwe is a urological-surgeon: a surgical subspecialty focused on men’s health as well as the urinary systems in both men and women. 

Dr Catherine Mohr is President of the Intuitive Foundation, the corporate foundation of Intuitive Surgical, manufacturer of the daVinci surgical system. 

Martin Smith is Professor of Surgery at the University of Witwatersrand in South Africa. His own research interests include Chronic Pancreatitis and Pancreatic cancer.

Dr Shant Shekherdimian is an Assoc. Professor of Paediatric Surgery at the University of California, L.A (UCLA). Shant’s clinical interests include neonatal and minimally invasive surgery.

Dr Monali Mohan is a medical graduate from Maulana Azad Medical College. She is a Comprehensive Emergency Obstetrics and Neonatal Care Mentor in Health Systems Strengthening at CARE-India.

Dr Charles Umeh is a medical doctor, trainee surgeon and MSc surgical science student at Edinburgh University, UK (Distance Learning). 

Dr Rajiv Doshi serves as an Adjunct Professor of Medicine and Director of the India Biodesign Program at Stanford University, which aims to train the next generation of medical technology innovators in India.

Dr Robert Ssekitoleko is a lecturer and head of Biomedical Engineering at the College of Health Sciences, Makerere University.

Dr Eduardo Flores-Villalba attended Medical School and graduated as a General Surgeon at Tec de Monterrey.

Dr Carla Pugh, MD, PhD, FACS  is a Professor of Surgery at Stanford University School of Medicine and Director of the T.E.C.I. Center.

Dr Juan Puyana is an acute care surgeon and educator in trauma, and emergency surgery.

Prof. Sir Murray F. Brennan is an oncologic surgeon that has lectured around the world and authored scientific papers, chapters, and books on soft tissue sarcoma.

Rachel Wood is a Senior Innovation Advisor in the Center for Innovation and Impact (CII) at USAID.

Related content

Meet the innovators changing global surgical training


Why is surgery ready for a challenge prize?


Improved global surgical training reaches far beyond the operating room


Why we need a Global Surgical Training Challenge


The team

Daniel Berman

Director, Global Health

Caroline Purslow

Senior Programme Manager, Global Health Team

Lauren Bellefeuille

Assistant Programme Manager

Veronika Dohnalova

Assistant Programme Manager

Piotr Gierszewski

Senior Researcher

Challenge timeline (click and scroll to the right)

15 July 2020

Challenge launches

Find out who can enter

July-Oct 2020

Solveathon workshops

MIT Solve will host a series of Solveathon® workshops – virtual, high-energy workshops designed to build teams and strengthen their applications for the Global Surgical Training Challenge.

Nov 2020

Applications close for Discovery Awards

Winners will be announced in December 2020

Aug 2021

Prototype showcase

Discovery award winners will be invited to pitch their prototype to the judging panel

Oct 2021

Applications close for Finalist Awards

Winners will be announced in December 2021

Jan-Oct 2022

External validation of Finalist Awards

Oct 2022

Applications close for Grand Prize

Winners will be announced in December 2022

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