Four ACS members named recipients of ACS/Pfizer Surgical Humanitarian and Volunteerism Awards

Earlier this evening, four members of the American College of Surgeons (ACS) were named recipients of the 2014 ACS/Pfizer Surgical Humanitarian and Volunteerism Awards in recognition of their selfless efforts as volunteer surgeons who provide care to medically underserved patients, domestically and abroad. The 2014 recipients were Harry S. Brown, MD, FACS, recipient of 2013 ACS/Pfizer Surgical Humanitarian Award, Joseph V. Sakran, MD, MPH, recipient of the ACS/Pfizer Surgical Volunteerism Award, Robert D. Bach, MD, FACS, recipient of the ACS/Pfizer Surgical Volunteerism International Award, and Scott A. Leckman, MD, FACS, recipient of the ACS/Pfizer Surgical Volunteerism Domestic Award.

The ACS/Pfizer Surgical Humanitarian and Volunteerism Awards are given "in recognition of those surgeons who have dedicated a substantial portion of their career to ensuring the provision of surgical care to underserved populations without expectation of commensurate reimbursement." The awards are determined by the ACS Board of Governors Surgical Volunteerism and Humanitarian Awards Workgroup, and are administered through the ACS Operation Giving Back program.

Harry S. Brown, MD, FACS, an ophthalmologist from Santa Barbara, Calif., began his work in humanitarian aid around the world when he was a resident at the Jules Stein Eye Institute, University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). During his residency, he became concerned with the issue of blindness in developing nations, where 90 percent of the people who have the condition reside. He spent a year abroad working with ophthalmologists in various under developed countries and recognized the need to develop a means of connecting the global reservoir of eye surgeons who had the requisite skills, desire, and frequently tools to serve these patients, but not the time to participate in lengthy clinics while maintaining their regular practices. In 1974, Dr Brown founded Surgical Eye Expeditions (SEE) International, which connects volunteer surgeons with colleagues in low-income countries to conduct short-term surgical clinics where sight-restoring operations are performed. Through this program, physicians are able to participate periodically throughout their professional lifetimes. Dr. Brown received his medical degree from the George Washington University School of Medicine, followed by an internship at the US Naval Hospital of Camp Pendleton. Until 1967, he worked in general family practice, before starting his own medical practice in Santa Barbara in 1971.

Joseph V. Sakran, MD, MPH, a general surgeon from Fairfax Station, Va., has been interested in global health issues since he started his medical training. He treated suicide bomb victims in Jerusalem during the second Intifada of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, provided medical care to the Bedouin population in Israel's Negev Desert, and treated the black Hebrews in Dimona. In response to the Indian Ocean Tsunami in 2004, he helped to organize a group of clinicians to provide care to patients in the damaged city of Pondicherry, India. Dr. Sakran also played a vital role in setting up a clinic after the 2010 Haiti earthquake outside Port-au-Prince. He integrated his medical studies with public health when he attended the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, Md., where he completed his medical degree and a master's degree in public health in the global health track. As a resident, he cofounded a not-for-profit organization called Surgeons for Global Health (SGH) to address the surgical burden of disease in low- and middle-income countries. Dr. Sakran is an assistant professor of surgery and director of Global Health and Disaster Preparedness at the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC), Charleston. As an acute care surgeon, Dr. Sakran spends most of his time caring for critically ill and injured patients.

Robert D. Bach, MD, FACS, a general surgeon from North Haven, Maine, has been performing volunteer surgical procedures since he first traveled to Nicaragua's north Atlantic coastal region in 1976, where he performed many operations in a mission hospital run by the Moravian Church. During the Sandanista-Contra War, he volunteered in Honduras, Guatemala, and St. Lucia. He returned to Nicaragua in 1990 and found that Puerto Cabezas had become a refugee center for the indigenous Miskito Indians who had been deported from the war zone, with the population increasing from 15,000 to more than 35,000. The regional hospital was deteriorating dramatically, prompting him to push for a new hospital. Funds were obtained from the United Nations through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), with the agreement that his newly formed organization, Partners in Health of Maine, would fully equip the hospital. Through his work in Nicaragua, Dr. Bach has developed teams of nurses, dentists, pediatricians, surgeons, emergency physicians, and medical technicians to serve the population. He performs operations during his visits every spring and fall, and volunteers have established outreach programs in the villages along the Rio Coco River to the north on the Honduras border. In 2007, the organization provided food, shelter, and public health assistance in the aftermath of Hurricane Felix. The latest project for Partners will be to provide wells, clean water, and waste disposal for rural communities. Dr. Bach received his medical degree from the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons and is currently an active staff member of the palliative care team at Eastern Maine Medical Center, Bangor.

Scott A. Leckman, MD, FACS, a general surgeon from Salt Lake City, Utah, has helped provide free health care to low-income, uninsured residents of Salt Lake County. He helped establish the Health Access Project (HAP) in 2001 after he traveled to Buncombe County, N.C., to learn how a similar program—the only one in the country at that time—was being implemented. As president-elect and later president of the Utah Medical Association, Dr. Leckman led the effort to recruit members of the Salt Lake County Medical Society to participate in HAP's volunteer provider network, speaking at medical meetings throughout the county. The network currently includes more than 600 physicians who provide a wide range of health care services. Dr. Leckman is also chairman of the board of RESULTS, a not-for-profit organization that creates political will to end poverty, where he has volunteered for 30 years. He is involved in lobbying for the fight against the diseases of poverty, such as the human immunodeficiency virus, tuberculosis, and malaria, as well as for microfinance and universal access to basic education. He is also leading an effort to lobby Congress to support a resolution at the World Health Assembly that would call for making access to essential surgical and anesthesia services a priority in low- and middle-income countries. Dr. Leckman is the past-president of the Rotary Club of Salt Lake City, and Assistant Governor for Utah's District 5420. As the District's PolioPlus Chairman, he regularly organizes trips for Utah Rotarians to India, where they work to eradicate polio through childhood immunization. Dr. Leckman received his medical degree from the University of Utah, where he went on to complete his residency. He is currently in private practice as a general surgeon in Salt Lake City.

Drs. Brown, Sakran, Bach, and Leckman bring the total number of recipients of the ACS Surgical Humanitarian and Volunteerism Awards to 38 since the award was inaugurated in 2003. The awardees are determined by the ACS Board of Governors Surgical Volunteerism and Humanitarian Awards Workgroup, and are administered through the ACS Operation Giving Back program.


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