In 2016, Penn Professor of Surgery, Dr. Jon Morris, and Perelman School of Medicine student, Alan Herbst, – accompanied by a team of Penn residents and medical students – started providing free surgical consultations for homeless Philadelphians at a soup kitchen in West Philadelphia. Through this initiative, the Agnew Surgery Clinic, the team saw firsthand how structural barriers make it particularly difficult for patients from underserved and undersupported communities to obtain surgical treatments. In 2019, Isabella Guajardo, now a general surgery resident at UCSD, was the first Agnew volunteer to acquire insurance for and navigate a surgical patient through the perioperative period.
Inspired to better support their community, Drs. Jon Morris, Matt Goldshore, and Carrie Morales founded the Center for Surgical Health in the fall of 2020. Funmi Adetunji, Laura Burkbauer, Alyssa Civantos, Lizz Card, Chris Herrera, Rebecca Kotcher, Whitney Orji, Viren Patel, Emily Scire, Kevin Zhang, and Cindy Zhao served as the inaugural board.
CSH deploys community based surgical equity programing with the goal of ensuring that every individual with a surgical disease has the tools to obtain their full health potential. CSH relies on community partners to identify patients who may benefit from its services. Each CSH patient is provided access to surgical care, navigation through the perioperative continuum, education about their surgical disease and treatment options, and screening and referrals to additional social healthcare services, public benefits, and legal assistance.