October 3, 2023
The ACS Board of Governors (BoG) Surgical Volunteerism and Humanitarian Awards Workgroup has announced the recipients of the 2023 ACS/Pfizer Surgical Volunteerism and Humanitarian Awards. The awards are administered through the ACS Health Outreach Program for Equity in Global Surgery (ACS H.O.P.E.), formerly known as Operation Giving Back.
The contributions of the seven award recipients are briefly summarized in this article and will be formally recognized at Clinical Congress 2023 in Boston, Massachusetts, during the annual BoG reception and dinner, Tuesday, October 24. Clinical Congress attendees are invited to hear the honorees speak at the Panel Session, Humanitarian Surgical Outreach at Home and Abroad: Reports of the 2023 Surgical Volunteerism and Humanitarian Award Winners, on Monday, October 23.
Drs. Robert and Andrea Parker
Andrea Parker, MD, FACS, and Robert Parker, MD, FACS, general surgeons in Bomet, Kenya, will jointly receive the ACS/Pfizer Academic Global Surgeon Award for their nearly 1 decade of service educating surgical trainees in a medically under-resourced country.
In 2014, both Drs. Parker completed their general surgery residency at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, and then began working at Tenwek Hospital in Bomet—a faith-based tertiary teaching and referral hospital. For the past 8 years, Drs. Parker have been training African surgeons to address surgical access gaps through clinical care, education, and research.
During medical school, Robert participated in short-term trips to Guatemala, Mexico, and Ecuador, and he took a year hiatus between his third and fourth year of medical school to serve at Tenwek Hospital as a research assistant in the Department of Surgery. There, he contributed to publications on common regional surgical diseases, which started his passion for research and building surgical capacity. Andrea participated in numerous short-term trips during training, including to the Dominican Republic and Zambia.
To improve training quality, alleviate the burden on faculty, and satisfy medical oversight boards in sub-Saharan Africa, Drs. Parker helped develop innovative web-based, weekly surgical curriculum alongside the College of Surgeons of East, Central, and Southern Africa (COSECSA).
Andrea led a project to create a context-specific modular curriculum, helping to design, implement, and distribute the content, in addition to primarily authoring much of the material. Robert has been an active participant in this endeavor, authoring multiple chapters in the online curriculum and also growing the region’s research capacity.
In addition to building a workforce, Drs. Parker supported physical infrastructure to enable education, including acquisition of laparoscopic equipment, new operating room lights and tables, and surgical instruments and retractors. They also have advocated around the world on the importance of academic surgery education.
Dr. Ala Stanford
Ala Stanford, MD, FACS, a pediatric surgeon in Meadowbrook, Pennsylvania, will receive the Domestic Surgical Volunteerism Award for her work in ensuring equitable access to quality healthcare in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, particularly during and following the acute phase of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Soon after beginning her career, she was appointed director of Temple University’s Center for Minority Health and Health Disparities, and in 2001, she created It Takes Philly, Inc., a 501(c)(3) organization that provides mentoring for children in underserved areas and exposing them to careers to which they otherwise may not have access.
Her work in the community provided the foundation to eventually play a key role in improving COVID-19 care in some of the poorest areas in Philadelphia. After the pandemic was declared and started to impact urban centers, Dr. Stanford recognized that locations being most affected were primarily neighborhoods populated by people of color. She used the infrastructure of her pediatric surgery practice to create a grassroots organization, the Black Doctors COVID-19 consortium, which focused on education, testing, contact tracing, and vaccination in communities devoid of access to care and resources.
Dr. Stanford reached out to impacted communities, partnering with local leaders and institutions to spread awareness of the Consortium and its activities, which achieved notable success, serving more than 100,000 individuals.
In 2022, building on the success of the Consortium, Dr. Stanford established the Dr. Ala Stanford Center for Health Equity in Philadelphia’s Allegheny West community, which had the lowest life expectancy in the city. There, she works to improve health outcomes and empower individuals to achieve better overall well-being.
Dr. Stanford’s efforts and her expertise in community health have been sought after at the local and national levels; she has served on the Philadelphia Board of Health and the city’s COVID-19 advisory board and was appointed as director of the Region III US Department of Health and Human Services by President Biden, a position in which she served for 1 year before returning to lead the Dr. Ala Stanford Center for Health Equity.
Dr. Andrew Kingsnorth
Andrew N. Kingsnorth, MB, BS, FACS, a general surgeon in Plymouth, UK, will receive the ACS/Pfizer International Surgical Volunteerism Award for his more than 20 years of service providing and coordinating surgical services, primarily for hernia repair, in locations around the world.
Dr. Kingsnorth has concentrated much of his volunteerism efforts on treating inguinal hernias, as they are the most common treatable cause of surgical morbidity in men around the world but are often unavailable in rural or under-resourced areas.
During his early international volunteerism, Dr. Kingsnorth saw the severe lack of access that many individuals faced in treating hernias. In 2005, he initiated an outreach hernia camp in Takoradi, Ghana, and in 2006, the Hernia Treatment Centre was established there. The center continues to operate, with nurses and physicians running awareness campaigns in the local community to recruit between 50 and 100 patients per week.
Dr. Kingsnorth is a founding member of the UK-based charitable organization Operation Hernia, where—for nearly a decade—he led 1- to 2-week missions to locations around Africa, including many to Ghana, as well as Nigeria, Ivory Coast, and The Gambia.
Currently, he is the director and administrator of Hernia International, an organization that sends teams around the world to perform thousands of hernia operations each year. This year, 14 trips have been completed or planned in countries, including Senegal, Pakistan, Tanzania, Brazil, and Sierra Leone.
At the district hospitals that typically host Hernia International visits, Dr. Kingsnorth and his teams train two to three surgeons in mesh hernioplasty during a 1-week visit, and they remain in contact with the regional surgeons to provide ongoing assistance. Dr. Kingsnorth has advocated for local and international support for outreach trips, acquiring grants, staff and personnel, and logistical support from sources in the UK and Africa.
Dr. Youmna Sherif
Youmna A. Sherif, MD, a global surgery resident at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas, will receive the ACS/Pfizer Resident Surgical Volunteerism Award for her 15 years of medical volunteer work in underserved areas around the world.
Dr. Sherif started her volunteerism before earning her medical degree, with her first role coming in 2008, at a mobile health clinic in Kimse Yok Mu, Turkey.
At this time, she was pursuing her bachelor’s degree at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, in a self-designed major exploring the impact of biopsychosocial factors on healthcare. She continued to accrue local and global health volunteer experience during her undergraduate studies.
Concurrent with her time as a medical student at the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine, Dr. Sherif became further involved in international volunteerism, particularly in Egypt. At Alexandria Main University Hospital in Egypt, she was a researcher on iatrogenic spread of hepatitis C and the increased prevalence of hepatocellular carcinoma—two conditions that are uniquely common in the country due to poor sterilization of vaccination tools, and which afflicted her mother who lived there. After her mother’s passing, Dr. Sherif became involved in the biopolitics of healthcare, conducting a study in Egypt that aimed to gauge Egyptians’ perceptions of governmental involvement in the spread of these conditions.
As a resident, Dr. Sherif has continued her global surgery work, volunteering in the pediatric surgery service at Uganda’s Mulago Hospital, in the general and bariatric surgery service in the Arab Bariatric & Plastic Center of Harpur Memorial Hospital in Menouf, Egypt, and as a researcher on optimizing the role of nonphysician clinicians at Kamuzu Central Hospital in Malawi.
Dr. Kerry Latham
US Air Force Colonel Kerry P. Latham, MD, MHPE, FACS, a plastic and reconstructive surgeon in Washington, DC, will receive the ACS/Pfizer Military Surgical Volunteerism Award for her more than 20 years of dedication to providing facial reconstructive operations while also serving in the US military.
In her first clinical year of medical school, Dr. Latham used her school breaks to visit the Philippines to learn more about global surgery, short mission healthcare delivery, and global partnership. Her mission in 1998 to Catanduanes, Philippines—2 years after beginning her military service—established her decision to pursue surgery and specialize in craniofacial surgery.
Dr. Latham provides a full spectrum of reconstructive services, but the needs of patients and healthcare systems drive the procedures performed in various sites across the world. Typically, cleft care and burn reconstruction, both acute and chronic, are in high demand, but Dr. Latham also has cared for acute trauma patients and performed tumor and cancer surgery.
In addition to performing surgery, Dr. Latham has developed resources that nations have continued to use. She created the surgical mission planning document that is crafted to ensure team and patient safety. The document and accompanying post-mission report process have been used across the US Department of Defense for surgical planning.
Dr. Latham values teaching, mentorship, and partnership on her volunteer missions, and she routinely offers educational series to hospital leaders, providing additional collaboration opportunities for host nation nurses and surgeons. In her volunteer locations, Dr. Latham has worked with national leaders to advocate for funds, resources, and placement of surgical and health services. She raised funds for physical therapy equipment for pediatric burn victims in Afghanistan and garnered donations for a life-changing surgery for a child in Barbados through a partnership with the only craniofacial surgeon in country and the ministry of health.
Dr. Charles Filipi
Charles J. Filipi, MD, FACS, a general surgeon in Omaha, Nebraska, will receive the ACS/Pfizer Surgical Humanitarian Award for his nearly 20 years of humanitarian service providing hernia repair services and encouraging others to volunteer their services in underdeveloped nations.
After working in private practice for 18 years, Dr. Filipi joined the faculty of Creighton University School of Medicine in Omaha, where he was a pioneer in laparoscopic and endoscopic surgery, including hernia repair.
In 2004, Dr. Filipi used his knowledge of the gaps in global hernia care in the Dominican Republic, where surgical teams repaired adult and pediatric hernias. For 6 years, he took an average of three annual trips to provide operations and education in developing countries.
In 2010, Dr. Filipi and a Creighton colleague arranged for four surgical teams to visit Haiti, offering support after the country’s devastating earthquake and performing 776 acute operations.
In 2011, Dr. Filipi took a leading role in creating two impactful global health programs—Chronic Care International (CCI) and Hernia Repair for the Underserved.
CCI, co-founded by Dr. Filipi, is a program to treat poor rural patients with diabetes and hypertension, providing free care to 1,200 patients in the Dominican Republic and 200 patients in the Philippines. Both the original Dominican Republic program and the recently started Philippines program use a database, shared with US-based medical staff, to monitor patient A1C levels and blood pressure.
In 2013, with the help of Colombian Catholic nuns, he initiated a food program in Ouanaminthe, Haiti, under the CCI nonprofit umbrella that continues to feed daily 70 children experiencing homelessness, despite the continued civil unrest.
Hernia Repair for the Underserved has, directly through surgery and indirectly through education of local surgeons, operated on thousands of hernia patients. The organization has trained 103 surgeons in Haiti, Brazil, Ecuador, Paraguay, and the Dominican Republic to perform the Lichtenstein repair using an ACS-approved operating performance rating scale. Approximately 2,000 operations have been performed by trainees, and 5,000 have been performed by hernia experts in seven developing countries. There have been no mortalities and a morbidity rate of .07% in these procedures.
Seeing further opportunities to advance global surgical volunteerism and humanitarian activities, Dr. Filipi initiated a Global Surgery Fellowship at Creighton in 2018. The 2-year fellowship, completed by three fellows to date, has 8 to 9 months of subspecialty surgical, anesthesia, neonatal intensive care unit, burn, and ultrasound education, and the final 15 months are spent in a developing country’s rural district hospital.