Dr. Sandberg named AANS Humanitarian of the Year
We are proud to share with you that Dr. David Sandberg has been selected as the 2019 recipient of the AANS Humanitarian of the Year award. The award is one of the most prestigious recognitions by the American Association of Neurological Surgeons. Dr. Sandberg is following in the footsteps of our founder, Dr. Barth Green, who received the award in 2011, and Dr. John Ragheb, who was the 2017 recipient.
Dr. Sandberg has completed 10 trips to Haiti with Project Medishare, and says that even as a resident, he knew that focusing on neurosurgery in developing countries would be a lifelong focus in his career. When he began his first faculty position at the University of Miami, he was inspired by the work of Dr. Green and Dr. Ragheb.
“Dr. Green’s work in Haiti is extraordinary – he has changed the country. He’s an inspiration. When I went for the first time, I realized just how close I was to Miami, and also that the poverty there is the worst in our hemisphere – it rivals that of sub-saharan Africa. The need is so great, and as a Miami native, I saw how close to home it is.”
He also cites his first trips with Dr. John Ragheb as an immense source of inspiration. “Dr. Ragheb started the pediatric neurosurgery trips, so I followed his guidance and path, and went with him several times to focus on hydrocephaly surgeries. Life took me to Houston, but I knew I wanted to continue to work in Haiti. Dr. Ragheb has inspired so many people to go down there.”
A large focus of Dr. Sandberg’s time in Haiti has been working with Dr. Yudy Lafortune, the first fellow in Project Medishare’s neurosurgery fellowship program, created in partnership with Hospital Bernard Mevs, University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, Miami Children’s Hospital, the State University of Haiti and the Haitian Ministry of Health. “There just aren’t enough people in Haiti to work with and teach Yudy, so I’ve tried to fill that role. I go down once a year, and do a combination of treating patients, but also training others. The goal is to work ourselves out of a job.” Dr. Sandberg travels with a group of volunteers from Houston, and says his partner, Dr. Manish Shah, has been an incredible source of support. He noted how impressed he always is with the staff at Hospital Bernard Mevs. “They are all so resourceful, and Nurse Maguy is especially incredible.”
When we asked him what his first impression of Haiti was, he shared with us that right away he was reminded of how similar we all are. “The patients are absolutely wonderful. There are beautiful children, as there are anywhere in the world, and also wonderful parents. Many of them have no education, and are facing difficult circumstances, but they love their children just as much as I love mine. The parents cannot afford to travel, but would do anything for their children, just as I would.”
His hope for the future of Haiti? “The diseases there are very advanced, and the poverty is so immense. Goals have to be tempered with realism. The overall goal would be that one day, a kid in Haiti who has hydrocephaly, can receive the same care as a child in the United States.”
As far as his advice for those considering volunteering? “Do it. It’s a life-changing experience. On one hand, you are able to really help people who otherwise would not necessarily be able to receive the care they need. On the other hand, it really makes you appreciate the care that we have here at home.”
Thank you, Dr. Sandberg, for your commitment and dedication to the people of Haiti. Your work is inspiring and this award is so very well deserved. Congratulations!