Aaron Epstein, SSP'12
President, Global Surgical and Medical Support Group
A double Hoya, Dr. Aaron Epstein graduated from SSP in 2012 and the Georgetown School of Medicine with an M.D. in 2018. While a medical student, Aaron founded Global Surgical and Medical Support Group (GSMSG) with the goal of “provid[ing] the highest quality medical care and training in austere settings overseas.”
Now a third-year general surgery resident physician based at the University at Buffalo, New York, Aaron continues to serve as the President of GSMSG. In 15 deployments over the past five years, Aaron has concentrated GSMSG efforts on the ground in the Middle East treating patients from Syria and Iraq. However, GSMSG has also provided teams and material support for COVID response efforts in NYC and Miami.
GSMSG differs from many other humanitarian agencies by offering training in addition to a full spectrum of medical aid. “The organization not only cares about providing direct medical and surgical care and supplies to these regions but also implements training programs for local medical providers,” says Aaron. They provide both primary care and specialized surgical care, such as orthopedic surgery, neurosurgery, and trauma surgery. Currently, the organization has a roster of over 1500 volunteers, including more than 400 physicians, working to ensure its success.
In his work overseas, Aaron has also seen an opportunity to help veterans transition to civilian life. “Other humanitarian organizations often reject those with military backgrounds because the qualifications don’t always translate to the civilian world.” With GSMSG’s focus on “Service After Service” the organization allows veterans a unique opportunity to give back to communities—often the same communities where veterans were stationed during their military service. “Redeployment to areas [where] veterans have served in the past means they can reconnect with communities they once served to defend and build up,” says Aaron. “It also provides veterans an opportunity to deploy with teams of like minded individuals, ready for whatever comes at them in these overseas settings.”
Female empowerment is also central to the organization. In the communities GSMSG serves, women especially lack access to healthcare or healthcare training. GSMSG brings female practitioners to support that community, improve women’s health, and provide medical role models for women in the region.
In 2021 and beyond, Aaron hopes to position the organization at locations in Africa and South America that are not already saturated with aid workers: “Avoiding what can be viewed as medical tourism and oversaturation of areas with foreign aid workers, which is greatly detrimental to local communities, is a guiding factor in where we decide to send teams.”
The networks Aaron cultivated through SSP and the wider Georgetown community have proven foundational as the organization expands. “Global networking across fields is a skill Georgetown is uniquely good at instilling in its students,” Aaron says, “and having people on the ground, around the world, provides a guide to interventions.” Aaron encourages any SSP alumni or students interested in the intersection of security, humanitarian aid, and medicine to reach out to him.
Right now, the convergence of security and humanitarian aid is relatively niche, but as GSMSG expands you can keep up to date at the links below.