Recipients of the 2018 American College of Surgeons (ACS) Surgical Humanitarian Awards and Surgical Volunteerism Awards will be recognized Tuesday evening at the Board of Governors annual reception/dinner. Recipients were selected by the Board of Governors Surgical Volunteerism and Humanitarian Awards Workgroup.
Surgical Humanitarian Awards
The ACS/Pfizer Surgical Humanitarian Award recognizes Fellows who have dedicated much of their careers to ensuring that underserved populations have access to surgical care and have done so without expecting commensurate compensation. This year, the award will be presented to two surgeons.
Nandakumar C. Menon, MB, BS, FACS, a general surgeon from Gudalur, Tamil Nadu, India, will receive a Surgical Humanitarian Award for the decades he spent providing sustainable, equitable medical services and training to the indigenous Adivasi people of southern India through the Association for Health Welfare in the Nilgiris (ASHWINI). Dr. Menon went to the remote Gudalur valley in Tamil Nadu’s Nilgiris district with the goal of establishing a health care system for the Adivasis, a historically reclusive population that suffered from a lack of modern medicine. Dr. Menon co-founded ASHWINI to create medical institutions that the Adivasi people would own and manage. Treatments were made possible through Dr. Menon’s commitment to training and preparing the Adivasis to participate in their own collective health care through ASHWINI. Guided by Dr. Menon, the Gudalur Adivasi Hospital (GAH) has transformed from its humble beginnings into a 50-bed secondary care hospital that houses a maternity ward, outpatient clinics, diagnostic facilities, and a full surgical complex. In 2017, the ASHWINI Adivasi School of Nursing opened to provide further training to the community, and 20 young women have enrolled in the program. Throughout all these changes, the Adivasis have managed the hospital and associated primary health care outposts.
Roland R. Stephens, MD, FACS, a general surgeon from Berrien Springs, MI, will receive a Surgical Humanitarian Award for his 50 combined years of surgical care to underserved populations around the world, primarily at the Karanda Mission Hospital in Zimbabwe. In 1962, Dr. Stephens traveled to what would become the Karanda Mission Hospital in Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) to provide surgical care to the medically underserved population near remote Mount Darwin, where he was the only physician for five years. In addition to providing all surgical care, he also treated tuberculosis, malaria, acquired immunodeficiency syndrome, and a host of other medical problems. From 1964 until Dr. Stephens left in 1978, Karanda was in an active combat zone because of the country’s civil war. Firefights occurred near the hospital regularly, with stray bullets piercing homes and water tanks. Dr. Stephens treated casualties from all sides. He was instrumental in starting the Karanda School of Nursing in 1964 alongside a nurse from the hospital. He was forced to leave Karanda in 1978, and after retiring from active practice in the U.S. in 1995, he returned to Karanda to continue volunteering alongside his son, Daniel Stephens, MD, FACS, who had become, and remains, a hospital leader.
Surgical Volunteerism Awards
The ACS/Pfizer Surgical Volunteerism Awards recognize ACS Fellows and members who are committed to giving back to society through significant contributions to surgical care as volunteers. This year, three awards will be granted to the following individuals.
Barbara A. Barlow, MD, FACS, a pediatric surgeon from New York, NY, will receive the Domestic Surgical Volunteerism Award for her dedication to preventing injuries to the children of Harlem and across the U.S. In her residency and training, Dr. Barlow saw that the rate of children hospitalized for preventable injuries in Harlem was twice the national average, with the deadliest injuries being falls from unsecured windows. By 1979, Dr. Barlow was instrumental in having New York City issue an ordinance requiring landlords to install window guards, and she worked with the city to start the Children Can’t Fly campaign to warn of falling dangers. By 1981, the number of injuries to children falling from windows had decreased in Harlem by 96 percent. Dr. Barlow also observed that many children were being injured by faulty and dangerous equipment on school playgrounds and obtained funds and enlisted community organizations to repair Harlem’s playgrounds. With support from the city’s parks department, she recruited an architect to develop safe playground structures, and artists and volunteers to paint murals. Since 1991, more than 40 new playgrounds have been built in Harlem, and a coalition of funding sources and Harlem community organizations now offer afterschool activities ranging from sports to art classes. In addition to her clinical and public health activities, Dr. Barlow founded the Injury Free Coalition for Kids in 1988.
Michael R. Curci, MD, FACS, a pediatric surgeon from Cumberland, ME, will receive an International Surgical Volunteerism Award for his decades of operative, training, and education service in Haiti and Rwanda. Dr. Curci began his volunteerism career in earnest in 1969, and for more than 40 years has traveled to the Hôpital Albert Schweitzer Haiti, Deschapelles, to provide pediatric surgical care to underserved children on annual two-week volunteer trips. In the last decade, Dr. Curci has been assisting with surgery, training, and education in Africa, particularly at the University Teaching Hospital of Kigali (CHUK), Rwanda, on annual three-month visits. Operating under the Clinton Health Access Initiative−Human Resources for Health: Rwanda, Dr. Curci is in his sixth year as an attending pediatric surgeon at CHUK and is training Rwandans for academic and surgical leadership roles. Dr. Curci has mentored Edmond Ntaganda, MD, and Alain Jules Ndibanje, MD, MMed, in order to ensure the continuous training of pediatric surgeons in the region. Dr. Curci is active in all aspects of pediatric and general surgery training at Kigali, including performing surgery as a backup to Dr. Ntaganda, case review, and taking clinic hours. Since Dr. Curci’s arrival at CHUK in 2013, the hospital has added a nascent pediatric ward and a dedicated operating room (OR), and the hospital soon will house a nearly state-of-the-art children’s OR.
Bruce C. Steffes, MD, FACS, a general surgeon from Linden, NC, will receive an International Surgical Volunteerism Award for his more than 20 years of providing surgical and administrative skill to underserved areas of the world. From 1998 to 2005, Dr. Steffes worked in many countries throughout Africa, Asia, and Central and South America in multiple mission hospitals, assisted the work of Samaritan’s Purse in Afghanistan in 2002, and provided surgical services on Mercy Ships on several occasions. Since 2003, Dr. Steffes has worked with the Pan-African Academy of Christian Surgeons (PAACS). In addition to operating on patients with conditions such as traumatic injury, advanced cancer, and burns, Dr. Steffes was chief executive officer/executive director of PAACS from 2006 to 2014 and medical director from 2014 to 2016. Under his leadership, the organization grew from two sites in two countries to 12 sites in nine countries; from nine trainees per year to 76; from three graduates to 63 (55 general surgeons, seven pediatric surgeons, and one head and neck surgeon); from eight volunteer short-term faculty to more than 200 per year; from one specialty program to four; and from two approved missionary faculty to 59. Notably, all PAACS graduates have remained in Africa to practice and expand the surgical workforce in the continent. Many are interested in providing surgical training themselves, which represents the only sustainable solution to the workforce crisis throughout Africa.