American College Of Surgeons - Inspiring Quality: Highest Standards, Better Outcomes

ACS Honors Five Members with Surgical Humanitarian and Volunteerism Awards


WASHINGTON, DC (October 19, 2016): Last night, five surgeons received the 2016 American College of Surgeons (ACS)/Pfizer Surgical Humanitarian Award and Surgical Volunteerism Awards in recognition of their selfless efforts as volunteer surgeons who provide care to medically underserved patients abroad.

The extraordinary contributions of these five award recipients were recognized at the 2016 Clinical Congress of the American College of Surgeons, during the annual Board of Governors reception and dinner. 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.

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. Rebekah Ann Naylor, MD, FACS, a general surgeon from Fort Worth, Texas, was named the award recipient for her work as medical missionary in expanding Bangalore Baptist Hospital in India.

Dr. Naylor was appointed as a missionary to India by the Foreign (now International) Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention in 1973, and she arrived at Bangalore Baptist Hospital in 1974. Her work there included a clinical practice, administrative responsibility, and teaching. She served as a surgeon at BBH and became chief of medical staff four years later. In 1984, Dr. Naylor became administrator and medical superintendent. She founded the adjoining nursing school, now named the Rebekah Ann Naylor School of Nursing, in 1995, and the school has now trained hundreds of nurses, including many from poor socioeconomic backgrounds. She led the development of the hospital from 80 to 160 beds, and it now has 340 beds and treats 275,000 patients per year in its clinics. In the 1990s, Dr. Naylor organized training programs in four allied health disciplines, set up accredited residency training programs for doctors, and initiated a training program for chaplains. She also started a choir, taught Bible study, led chapels, supervised building projects, and created a strategy to reach India through the hospital’s ministry.

Dr. Naylor returned to the United States in 2002 and joined the faculty at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas, as clinical associate professor of surgery, a position she held until she retired in 2010. She is also an adjunct professor of missions and special missionary in residence at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Fort Worth, Tex. Dr. Naylor continues to travel frequently to India to participate in the ministry of BHH. She also now serves as a global health care consultant for Baptist Global Response, a non-profit relief and development organization, where she helps to mobilize personnel to meet medical needs around the world.

The ACS/Pfizer Surgical Volunteerism Award recognizes ACS Fellows and members who are committed to giving back to society through significant contributions to surgical care as volunteers. This year, volunteerism awards were granted to four surgeons.

James A. O’Neill Jr., MD, FACS, a pediatric surgeon from Nashville, Tenn., received the International Surgical Volunteerism Award for making significant contributions to surgical care through organized volunteer activities abroad.

Dr. O’Neill has been involved in surgical volunteerism for more than 30 years. He began his work abroad in Guatemala performing operative and outpatient pediatric surgical care. In 2003, he stepped down as chair of surgery at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Nashville, Tenn., to focus on volunteer activities in Kenya. He joined a surgical team at the Naivasha District Hospital, serving as the only pediatric surgeon onsite. He has also since 2006 spent 6-8 weeks each year at the Kijabe Mission Hospital where he has helped children from United Nations Somalia refugee camps who require complicated surgical care and postoperative follow-up. He also served for six years with Project Hope planning and building a teaching children’s hospital in Shanghai, China.

Dr. O’Neill instituted a program at Naivasha District Hospital to train nurses in post-pediatric surgical care and train medical officers to perform basic and lifesaving procedures. He also served as an advisor and consultant in planning and constructing the Women and Infants Unit at Naivasha. Dr. O’Neill recently sponsored a new staff surgeon at Kijabe Mission Hospital to come to the U.S. to attend the meeting of the American Pediatric Surgical Association and to visit several Children’s centers.

Further, Dr. O’Neill has obtained donations each year of equipment for mechanical ventilation, pediatric surgical instruments, and supplies for Naivasha and Kijabe hospitals. He has also obtained Advanced Trauma Life Support manuals and Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations manuals to help in the formation of a trauma service and the establishment of infection control and quality improvement systems.

J. Nilas Young, MD, FACS, a cardiothoracic surgeon from Sacramento, Calif., received the International Volunteerism Award for bringing access to heart surgery to children in Russia and Latin America.

Dr. Young has been involved in surgical volunteer work for more than 25 years. In the 1980s during the Cold War, Dr. Young performed a pro bono operation on a seven-year-old Soviet girl with congenital heart disease. As news of his work spread, in 1989 Dr. Young cofounded Heart to Heart International Children’s Medical Alliance. The Alliance’s mission was to develop the first self-sustaining heart program for children in Leningrad (now St. Petersburg), Russia. After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Dr. Young continued his efforts to bring care for heart disease to the children of Russia. Due to Dr. Young’s work, as of 2013 more than 27 percent of newborns who underwent an open heart procedure in Russia did so at a Heart to Heart site.

Through the campaign Into the Heartland, 2002-2019, Dr. Young has brought children access to lifesaving surgery and has expanded the program into Latin America. The education-based program model for international humanitarian aid designed and pioneered by Dr. Young has been widely influential. His model focuses on the development of new surgical teams to address congenital heart disease in newborns, infants, and children. Because so many have implemented this model, tens of millions of families have had access to accurate diagnoses and surgical procedures to treat life-threatening heart disease.

Sandra Lynn Freiwald, MD, FACS, a general surgeon from San Diego, Calif., received the Domestic Surgical Volunteerism Award for helping to bring medical and surgical care to the uninsured population of San Diego through Project Access San Diego.

Dr. Freiwald (nee Engelhardt) became involved with Project Access, run by Champions for Health (formerly the San Diego County Medical Society Foundation), in 2008. She was invited to be the surgical champion of Project Access, and, after the partnership between Kaiser Foundation Hospital in San Diego and Southern California Permanente Medical Group physicians, they began to offer Saturday Surgery Days twice a year at outpatient surgery centers. They provided more than 500 routine surgical procedures for uninsured patients, like hernia repairs and colonoscopies, that patients would otherwise not be able to afford. As the surgical champion, Dr. Freiwald continues to recruit surgeon volunteers, screen potential patients, and assist with as well as perform operations.

Dr. Freiwald is also interested in working in underserved communities abroad. She spent several months in Monrovia, Liberia working as a general surgeon with Médecins Sans Frontières, went on a weeklong mission to Haiti with Project Medishare, and went to Jamaica with Kaiser Permanente Family Medicine Residents on a global health rotation. In her role as a member of the Global Affairs Committee of the Society of American Gastrointestinal and Endoscopic Surgeons (SAGES), Dr. Freiwald gives interactive telemedicine lectures to general surgery residents in Haiti. She has also given lectures to local college and nursing students about her with in Liberia, and she participates in recruiting events and other public events in San Diego offered by Médecins Sans Frontières.

Barclay Thompson Stewart, MD, a general surgeon from Beaufort, S.C., received the Surgical Resident Volunteerism Award for his contributions to his profession and humanity in his extensive work helping serve populations in developing countries.

Dr. Stewart has been involved in surgical volunteerism for over a decade. As a medical student at the Medical University of South Carolina, Dr. Stewart created the largest free clinic for the homeless in Charleston County, S.C., which is currently still providing care for thousands. In 2005, he volunteered at an International Committee of the Red Cross hospital in Nepal during the civil war in the country, assisting surgeons and staff with burn care, outreach, and education. The following year, he was the co-architect of a referral system to improve the timely delivery of care for patients with life-threatening conditions in Malawi.

Dr. Stewart was the 2009-2010 NIH/Fogarty Global Health Research Scholar. During this time, he worked in Kenya and South Africa on deworming HIV-infected children and adults. He also assisted a surgeon in a refugee camp hospital in Kakuma, Kenya, that saw a high prevalence of hydatid cysts, and organized an assessment of hydatidosis in South Sudan to inform treatment of cattle and pastoralists.

In 2014, Dr. Stewart was awarded the NIH/Fogarty Global Health Research Fellowship. This lead him to Ghana where he collected data to integrate surgical, trauma, and burn care into the country’s national health plan. He also served as visiting chief resident and filled in at district and referral hospitals. Dr. Stewart mentored students, residents, and surgeons in Ghana; organized research symposia; personally funded a masters student in public health; and helped a Ghanaian surgeon move to Toronto for a trauma and critical care fellowship. He has recently worked in Geneva at the World Health Organization, developing a toolkit for identifying strength and weaknesses of emergency and trauma systems in low- and middle-income countries.

Editor’s Note: Photos of the award winners are available upon request from the ACS Office of Public Information. Email:

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About the American College of Surgeons

The American College of Surgeons is a scientific and educational organization of surgeons that was founded in 1913 to raise the standards of surgical practice and improve the quality of care for surgical patients. The College is dedicated to the ethical and competent practice of surgery. Its achievements have significantly influenced the course of scientific surgery in America and have established it as an important advocate for all surgical patients. The College has more than 80,000 members and is the largest organization of surgeons in the world. For more information, visit


Devin Rose
Dan Hamilton