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

2015 Surgical Humanitarianism Award: Dan Poenaru

Dan Poenaru, MD, FACS, a pediatric surgeon from Montreal, QC, received the 2015 Surgical Humanitarian Award for starting East Africa’s first pediatric surgical fellowship and for educating and training pediatric surgeons in Africa.

Dr. Poenaru made a life-changing decision to end his full-time academic pediatric surgical practice to move from Canada to Kenya with BethanyKids, a faith-based organization devoted to the holistic care of children with surgical conditions and disabilities. With only seven beds available for children with pediatric surgical conditions upon his arrival, Dr. Poenaru co-founded BethanyKids at Kijabe Hospital (BKKH), a 67-bed pediatric surgery unit with 15 outpatient clinic sites across Kenya, several surgical trainees, specialty nurses, and rehabilitation therapists. He ran multiple pediatric surgical missions in Somaliland and bimonthly clinics in Dadaab, Kenya.

Realizing his general and pediatric surgical training was insufficient to meet the demands of his new environment, Dr. Poenaru sought additional training and recruited volunteer surgeons from North America. Not wanting to turn patients away, he scrubbed in with these recruits to learn techniques in pediatric urology, neurosurgery, and plastic surgery. Soon becoming aware of the limitations of surgical practice and training in resource-limited settings, Dr. Poenaru established a pediatric surgery fellowship program in conjunction with the Pan-African Academy of Christian Surgeons (PAACS). In partnership with the College of Surgeons of East, Central, and Southern Africa (COSECSA), he was able to attain accreditation for this fellowship program, making it the first certification in pediatric surgery available in the region. The COSECSA graduates, coming from several African countries, established satellite BethanyKids sites in Madagascar, Ethiopia, Uganda, and Sierra Leone.

Dr. Poenaru remained a strong advocate for increased resources for children’s surgeries in Africa through his research into the global burden of pediatric surgery, at conferences, and through educational and promotional materials. His fundraising efforts contributed to the construction of the new operative block at Kijabe Hospital, an 80-bed children’s center expected to open in 2016, and an upcoming 15-bed inpatient unit at the Mbarara University Teaching Hospital (MUTH) in Uganda.

As clinical director of BethanyKids, Dr. Poenaru oversees the activities of all six African sites. He is closely involved with the local surgeons and staff, regularly visiting the sites to assist in their operation. For the last three years he has also been involved in a new undergraduate medical program in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, where he acts as part-time academic dean.

See more photos on the Bulletin website.