Our Vision

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 all people receive adequate surgical care. 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:

  • Offering surgical & obstetrical skills training and knowledge transfer
  • Promoting initiatives and infrastructure to prevent injury and improve safety
  • Supporting surgical information systems and technology.

Brief History

Staff members in the first CNIS Vancouver office. © R. Lett 1997

Dr. Ronald Lett, Joan VanDuzer and Dr. Peter McLean founded CNIS in 1995. With a budget of $65,000, our initial essential surgical skills course took place at two educational institutions: Addis Ababa, Ethiopia and in Kampala, Uganda. In 1997, CNIS received its first grant of $183,000 from CIDA. Today, with a 25-fold increase in budget, CNIS operates twenty centres throughout Africa, as well as in the Caribbean.

CNIS has grown from three people to a trans-Canada organization, including surgical and obstetrical departments, individual and organizational members, professional associations and other Canadian partners, as well as our African partners in Ethiopia, Malawi, Mali, Mozambique, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia and our collaborating partners in Guyana and Haiti. CNIS and our African colleagues have put the injury pandemic on the agenda of policy makers and made it a national and international priority. From the initial Essential Surgical Skills (ESS) course, CNIS has developed into a teaching organization with a dozen courses. We have trained more than 7,500 practitioners in Essential Surgical Skills alone and close to 20,000 practitioners combined. African students have learned over 300,000 lifesaving skills and applied them to areas where the need for surgery is a matter of life and death.

Support our unique teaching initiative and help us continue this Canadian legacy.


Article from 1997