Studying the Effect of COVID-19 on Global Urologic Surgery Care

March 31, 2023

A study published in the Journal of Global Health in December 2022 by members of the International Volunteers in Urology (IVUmed) examined how the COVID-19 pandemic affected global surgical care, using IVUmed as a case study. The study examined how the pandemic affected the ability of IVUmed and other organizations to provide surgical care to patients in low- and middle-income countries, as well as potential strategies for mitigating the pandemic's impact on surgical care.

Contributing to the study from the UPMC Children’s Division of Pediatric Urology was Francis X. Schneck, MD. Dr. Schneck is the division’s clinical director and director of the pediatric urology fellowship program at UPMC Children’s.

Dr. Schneck is also a long-standing member of IVUmed and currently holds the chair position for its Board of Directors. For more than two decades, Dr. Schneck has volunteered his time and surgical expertise to innumerable children in Africa and other parts of the world who are in desperate need of often complex urologic surgical procedures. His volunteer work also extends to training surgeons and health care providers in the host countries and hospitals he has visited as a member and team leader with IVUmed.

"We undertook this analysis to quantify what we theorized would be massive disruptions and long-term consequences for health care and patient outcomes in general, and also the effects of this disruption on training surgeons and providers," says Dr. Schneck. "The consequences proved to be stark and, in many ways, too big to measure. We have much catching up to do just to get back to the level we were at before the pandemic began.”

The IVUmed team's analysis projected that during the pandemic, they could not conduct 36 volunteer workshop missions to perform surgeries and train local providers. This lack of work translated into approximately 1,300 patients not being seen and almost 900 surgical cases being lost. The gap caused by COVID-19 also resulted in more than 450 local surgeons missing out on training opportunities provided by the IVUmed workshops.

“Those numbers may seem small, but consider this scenario played out for virtually every organization conducting similar work across disciplines, around the world, and you quickly get to a magnitude of impact that's almost unfathomable," says Dr. Schneck.

Health care disparities and lack of resources have been a long-standing plague on the health and prosperity of many low- and middle-income countries and their people. The COVID-19 pandemic's travel restrictions and lockdowns greatly exacerbated the situation, and its effects will linger for decades. However, groups like IVUmed and volunteers like Dr. Schneck are committed to rekindling their work and addressing the new set of challenges that COVID-19 has left in its wake.

"As an organization, we were able to pivot to some extent and provide virtual opportunities for our partners to provide consultations and discuss specific patient cases," says Dr. Schneck. "We also were able to construct an EMR system for our workshops once they resumed in-person visits in order to better collect data on encounters and facilitate improved continuity of care."

Read the entire study and its findings.

Learn more about IVUmed and its volunteer work.



Lee J, Loozen AV, Sweeney D, Schneck F, Ching CB. G. The Projected Impact of COVID-19 on Global Surgical Care: A Case Study of International Volunteers in Urology (IVUmed). J Glob Health. 2022 Dec 17; 12:03086.