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

2016 Domestic Volunteer Award: Sandra L. Freiwald

Dr. Freiwald (left) assisting on a laparoscopic cholecystectomy on a Saturday Surgery Day

Dr. Freiwald (left) assisting on a laparoscopic cholecystectomy on a Saturday Surgery Day


Sandra L. Freiwald, MD, FACS, general surgeon, Kaiser Permanente Hospital, San Diego, CA, received the 2016 Domestic Surgical Volunteerism Award for her work with the San Diego County Medical Society Foundation’s (SDCMSF) Project Access San Diego, which enables low-income, uninsured individuals to receive specialty care services at no cost. A surgical champion since 2008 for Project Access, Dr. Freiwald leads a team that organizes the provision of surgical care to San Diego County residents who otherwise would not have access to elective operations.

Dr. Freiwald speaking with a patient before surgery on a Saturday Surgery Day

Since Kaiser Permanente San Diego partnered with SDCMSF in 2008, Dr. Freiwald has led a team for Project Access, and in that time has led 17 Saturday Surgery Days. Offered biennially at a Kaiser Permanente outpatient surgery center, these days allow surgeon volunteers to provide outpatient general surgery care, including hernia repairs, cholecystectomies, and anal fistulotomies, to patients who are unable to pay for treatment on their own. Specialists, including ophthalmologists and vascular surgeons, also are involved. Dr. Freiwald facilitates the program, recruiting surgical volunteers, screening patients, and either assisting with or performing select operations. As of the second Saturday Surgery Day in 2015, the program had provided 571 uninsured patients with specialty care.

In addition to her work with SDCMSF, Dr. Freiwald is credited with saving the San Diego Medical Center $2 million to $5 million annually by assisting in the development and implementation of the trauma patient repatriation system.

Dr. Freiwald has been involved in international surgical outreach, as well. She spent several months in 2006 and 2007 working as a general surgeon with Médecins Sans Frontiéres (Doctors Without Borders) in Monrovia, Liberia, providing emergency medical care to people affected by war and poverty. She also has participated in medical missions with Project Medishare in Haiti and in Jamaica with Kaiser Permanente Family Medicine Residents on a global health rotation.

Dr. Freiwald is assistant chief of general surgery at Kaiser Permanente San Diego; and subsection head, general surgery department, and chairperson-elect, department of surgery, Palomar Medical School, Escondido.