The American College of Surgeons (ACS) Board of Governors Surgical Volunteerism and Humanitarian Awards Workgroup has announced the recipients of the 2021 ACS/Pfizer Surgical Humanitarian Awards and Surgical Volunteerism Awards. As in previous years, the workgroup received exceptional nominations, reflecting the remarkable commitment of ACS Fellows to providing care to underserved populations.
A summary of the accomplishments of the five recipients of this year’s awards follows. For more information, watch the award recipients discuss their experiences in a Panel Session, Humanitarian Surgical Outreach at Home and Abroad: Reports of the 2021 Volunteerism and Humanitarian Award Winners, at 11:00 am Central Time on Monday, October 25.
International Surgical Volunteerism Awards
Seng-Feng Jeng, MD, FACS, a plastic and reconstructive surgeon in Kaohsiung City, Taiwan, will receive an International Surgical Volunteerism Award for his nearly 20 years of volunteerism in Vietnam, where he performs free reconstructive surgery and teaches local surgeons and health care teams in an underequipped health system. Dr. Jeng, professor of surgery, department of plastic surgery, E-Da Hospital, Kaohsiung City, participated in his first reconstructive microsurgery charitable mission with Operation Smile Vietnam in 2002, after which he was inspired to continue a charitable mission program to help build Vietnam’s severely underfunded health system. Since his first mission, Dr. Jeng and his team have traveled most often to Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC)—every year for a week to 10 days to provide free surgical services.
Recognizing the demand for their services, Dr. Jeng and his team increased the frequency of their missions and focused on training local surgeons to perform basic microsurgery cases while assisting with more complex cases. They share clinical expertise and have taken a train-the-trainer approach to advance the level of local surgical expertise so that more operations can be performed in these underserved areas. Dr. Jeng has worked diligently to secure funds, supplies, and training opportunities for Vietnamese surgeons and health care teams, as well as to advocate for an improved health system. He worked with the leadership team at his home institution, E-Da Hospital, to gain committed funding to continue charitable missions as a formalized program. E-Da Hospital has sponsored more than five missions with a monetary commitment of more than $150,000 (U.S.).
Brent A. Senior, MD, FACS, an otolaryngologist in Chapel Hill, NC, will receive an International Surgical Volunteerism Award for his decades of work in providing otolaryngologic surgery services and education in Southeast Asia, particularly Vietnam. Since 1998, Dr. Senior, the Nathaniel and Sheila Harris Distinguished Professor and chief, division of rhinology, allergy, and endoscopic skull base surgery, University of North Carolina (UNC) School of Medicine at Chapel Hill, has been leading two-week surgical missions to Vietnam to help build medical and surgical infrastructure in a nation that was devastated in the Vietnam War and has struggled since. Working in both Saigon and HCMC, Dr. Senior has performed hundreds of operations in his time as a volunteer, spanning the breadth of otolaryngology–head-and-neck surgery.
Dr. Senior focuses on educating and training local otolaryngologists to perform these procedures. All surgical procedures that Dr. Senior or his team perform in Vietnam are completed with either a local surgeon or a resident to ensure a broader educational experience for Vietnamese surgeons. Dr. Senior also has personally financed 18 Vietnamese surgeons to come to the U.S. for three-month mini-fellowships at UNC and across the country. Through these fellowships, Vietnamese surgeons learn modern medical and surgical concepts, skills, and techniques, which they take back to Vietnam to proliferate through the health care system. As a result of these efforts, Vietnamese otolaryngologists have instituted quality improvement processes at the nation’s two major teaching centers. He also has solicited funds through the North Carolina Medical Foundation, arranging for donations totaling more than $2 million in equipment, corporate sponsors, and personal funds.
Domestic Surgical Volunteerism Award
Rochelle Dicker, MD, FACS, a trauma and critical care surgeon in Los Angeles, CA, will receive the Domestic Surgical Volunteerism Award for her efforts to develop firearm injury prevention education, support for victims of firearm violence, and advocacy for firearm injury reduction-based legislation. Dr. Dicker, professor of surgery and anesthesia, vice-chair for critical care, chief of surgical critical care, associate trauma director, University of California Los Angeles David Geffen School of Medicine, developed the Wraparound model, which transformed into the San Francisco Wraparound Project. The project works to reduce injury and criminal recidivism among the most vulnerable citizens of San Francisco and is based on three critical components: a public health approach for injury prevention based on evidence that addressing root causes of violence such as poverty and systemic racism to prevent future injury and incarceration, health communication and services that are culturally appropriate, and recognition that a major event like trauma provides a teachable moment.
In partnership with community-based organizations, the Wraparound Project provides services to create social capital in individuals and communities affected by violence. Dr. Dicker expanded her work from the Wraparound Project to bring the model of firearm injury prevention and support for victims to 70 hospitals around the country. Dr. Dicker and colleagues also created the Health Alliance for Violence Intervention (HAVI), which fosters hospital and community collaborations to advance equitable, trauma-informed care and violence intervention and prevention programs. Through the Wraparound Project and HAVI, Dr. Dicker has been a key participant in advocacy efforts to secure funding for the programs and to create legislative support in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services for the implementation and continuation of firearm injury prevention programs nationwide.
Resident Volunteerism Award
Rami Kantar, MD, MPH, a general surgery resident in Baltimore, MD, will receive the Resident Volunteerism Award for his efforts to provide logistical support, surgical and clinical services, and capacity building with the Global Smile Foundation, which offers comprehensive cleft palate and lip care in underserved countries around the world. Since 2013, Dr. Kantar, University of Maryland Medical System–R. Adams Cowley Shock Trauma Center, Baltimore, has been volunteering with the foundation, which focuses on areas of need, underserved patient populations, and geographical areas significantly affected by geopolitical instabilities and conflict. Dr. Kantar helps to organize and provide logistical support to all missions, and he has provided surgical care to address cleft lip and palate repair in approximately 10 missions to Beirut, Lebanon; San Salvador, El Salvador; and Peru.
On his missions, Dr. Kantar and his teams have provided both primary and secondary cleft lip repair and cleft palate repair. These missions include surgical, dental, speech, and language pathology, as well as psychosocial services, and Dr. Kantar has worked as a liaison to link patients to each in his organizational role. Concurrently with direct surgical and patient care services, the Global Smile Foundation develops and implements capacity-building cleft care initiatives to empower and assist local physicians and communities in reaching cleft care expertise, with the aim to transition surgical missions into autonomous local cleft care centers. The foundation to date has established local cleft care centers at two sites in Beirut and Guayaquil, Ecuador. Dr. Kantar has worked to implement educational initiatives in the form of simulation-based comprehensive cleft care workshops in areas of need, through which he and his colleagues provide hands-on training to students and practicing surgeons.
Academic Global Surgeon Award
Chandrakanth Are, MBBS, FACS, FRCS, will receive the inaugural Academic Global Surgeon Award for his efforts to create and sustain various global curricula and programs in surgical oncology to help alleviate health care disparities in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs), with a particular focus on India. Dr. Are, the JL & CJ Varner Professor of Surgical Oncology & Global Health, and vice-chair of education, department of surgery, University of Nebraska Medical Center (UNMC), Omaha, has been closely involved in the surgical global outreach efforts of the Society of Surgical Oncology (SSO) and served as the chair of the SSO International Committee. He led the efforts to develop a Global Curriculum in Surgical Oncology, which highlights the global variation in cancer care education and makes the case for a streamlined global surgical oncology curriculum of uniform standards. This resource-stratified curriculum can be used as a foundational platform for training surgical oncologists, which is critical in LMICs.
In addition, Dr. Are initiated the Global Cancer Surgery Research Collaborative between UNMC and a tertiary care cancer center in India and, as the founding director of the collaborative, he and his team encourage trainees and junior faculty to pursue and include research in their daily practice. Dr. Are also is the founding director of the Global Forum of Cancer Surgeons (GFCS), which comprises 15 oncology societies from around the world. The membership of the GFCS represents approximately 75 to 80 percent of the global cancer burden by incidence and mortality. Within his home institution of UNMC, Dr. Are initiated an exchange program to train Indian surgeons in the U.S., facilitating visits of nearly Indian 900 candidates to UNMC, including medical students, residents/fellows, and faculty.