The Canadian Network for International Surgery is committed to empowering low-income countries to create an environment where the risk from injuries is minimal and that all people receive adequate healthcare. CNIS believes in sharing knowledge, expertise and experience to promote lasting and sustainable improvements in health and safety in the developing world.


Our mission is to improve maternal health, increase safety, and build local capacity in low-income countries by:




Creating Surgical Courses 

In collaboration with our partners in low income countries, we create tailored courses for their specific needs. Besides basic surgical skills and obstetrics courses, CNIS has a trauma team course, peri-operative nurse course, burn management, hernia repair, and a traumatic brain and spinal injury course.


Training Domestically 

We train Canadian surgeons, obstetricians and nurses here at home, giving them the tools to teach abroad


Transferring Skills

Our Canadian professionals then travel to areas where they transfer their skills to local healthcare students. As a result, lifesaving surgeries are performed.

In Canada, medical help is a right we take for granted. In sub-Saharan African countries, medical and surgical assistance is a luxury that millions cannot access. This lack of access makes every surgical issue a challenge with grave consequences. Physical injuries account for more deaths than HIV/AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis combined. Child birth is equally dangerous, not just for the baby, but for mothers. In Tanzania alone, one in twenty two women die when giving birth.

Dr. Ronald Lett, Joan VanDuzer and Dr. Peter McLean founded CNIS in 1995 with the vision of improving the health and safety in sub-Saharan Africa. With a budget of $65,000, our initial Essential Surgical Skills (ESS) course took place at two education institutions: Addis Ababa, Ethiopia and in Kampala, Uganda. In 1997, CNIS received its first grant of $183,000 from the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA).

Our aim, when we started in 1995, was to create a lifesaving snowball effect –and it’s working. To date, we have tailored 12 specific courses and qualified more than 150 Canadian surgeons, obstetricians, anesthetists, and nurses to teach their counterparts overseas. They in turn, have qualified more than 760 instructors in their own countries, who in collaboration with the Canadians, have gone on to train more than 25,000 healthcare practitioners in a variety of lifesaving surgical skills.

Where We Work

CNIS has implemented life-saving courses in 8 African countries, including Tanzania, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Rwanda and Uganda, as well as Guyana and Haiti in the Caribbean.


Support our unique initiatives and help us continue this Canadian legacy.