CSA Global Health Committee Member Spotlight – Mark Singleton, MD, FASA

  • Crawford, Ana, MD, MSc, FASA
| Apr 24, 2023

The World Health Organization defines health as “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity”. The CSA Committee on Global Health works to celebrate the volunteerism, philanthropy, and global health impact of CSA members, both locally and internationally. The committee would like to take this opportunity to highlight the accomplishments of Dr. Mark Singleton, past CSA president.

If you would like to be featured or to nominate a colleague, please email Dr. Ana Maria Crawford, CSA Global Health Committee Chair, at anacrawford@stanford.edu

Mark-Singleton-MDAn Interview with Dr. Singleton

Where did you grow up?

I grew up in Santa Barbara, California in the 1960s. It was a small beach town in those days, not the celebrity-trendy place it is today. Our public high school was large and diverse, with a mix of kids from Latin American, African American, Asian, and European ancestry.

Do you think your upbringing influenced you becoming involved in GH? If so, how?  

My mother was an emergency room nurse at a Catholic hospital a few blocks from both the junior and senior high schools and I would often walk there after school at the end of her shift. My interest in science was energized by a couple of enthusiastic and charismatic teachers who pushed me along to local science fair competitions and even so far as medical school application. I was impressed that the nuns at the hospital headed some of the clinical departments because of their scientific training. It was a time of innovation in medicine. I remember my nurse mother being invited to become one of the first nurses to staff the newly created Intensive Care Unit. It was a brand-new concept sweeping hospitals across the country. Everyone I met encouraged me. It was a tremendous adventure to be shared and that is how medical practice has always been for me. Global Health is part of that sharing and adventure.

How do you define Global Health (GH)?  

For me Global Health is simply the widest reach to which our profession can aspire. As physicians, nurses and all health professionals, we bring our skills, training and experience to people everywhere, providing care and education.

What do you consider as your first Global Health experience? 

My first year in practice was in 1986. I was invited by a plastic surgeon to join a group organized by Interplast (now called ReSurge) to go to La Ceiba, Honduras to repair cleft lips and palates. It was a magical experience, the kind that happens in our youth and stays with us for our lifetimes. I returned to that town many times over the next two decades. It also led me to become involved in many other global health experiences.

What are recent examples of your GH engagement?  

I now have the ability to spend time doing several global health activities each year. Since the pandemic curtailed travel for large team missions, many organizations have leveraged their volunteers to be educators rather than direct providers of care. Last year I had the opportunity to go with a small group to Kampala, Uganda. We assessed the current capacity and needs of the national burn referral center for the entire country. Many acutely burned patients of all ages arrive there in need of intensive care, yet there are no anesthesiologists or critical care specialists to train personnel in the use of ventilators and other equipment. More recently I spent a week at the National Children's Hospital in Hanoi, Vietnam, which provides a level of care comparable to most large university-affiliated children's hospitals in the USA. I was accompanied by a craniofacial surgeon and pediatrician and in collaboration with the hospital's craniofacial team we performed complex surgeries on a half dozen children. The exchange of ideas and approaches to care were the focus of our visit. These two experiences represent opposite ends of my global health experiences.

What GH initiative or project are you most proud of accomplishing? 

It is most fulfilling to me to share small ideas, suggestions, and experiences with other anesthesiologists and health providers outside of my own familiar workplaces. These are the things that have influenced and helped me in my practice to provide what I think is the best care I can to my patients and to use resources responsibly.

How can Global Health evolve over an anesthesiologist’s career from residency to retirement? 

I went on my first volunteer team trip a year after finishing training, my first year in private practice. That was 37 years ago. As I think about retirement, I do want to continue to participate in global health activities. In order to provide direct patient care almost anywhere in the world, one must maintain an active medical license under some authority. More importantly, in retirement one has an ethical obligation to ensure their own clinical competence. We must be honest with ourselves and adjust our activities to our abilities. These may change with time but fortunately there are many ways to contribute.

What has been your most challenging or surprising lesson learned in Global Health? 

Even after all these years I'm always a little circumspect giving an anesthetic, especially to babies, in settings where I am a stranger and resources are limited. It always amazes me how inventive and clever people can be, accomplishing remarkable patient care and treatment with whatever is available.

What would you like to share with others regarding the value of Global Health engagement?

I have no doubt that my career-long experiences in Global Health have made me a far better, more resourceful, and responsible anesthesiologist than I would have been without them. What's more, I have been, for short intense periods of time, a citizen of various world communities and cultures different from my own. This has given me a priceless understanding of humanity and the world we inhabit together.



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