Biology, Chemistry, and Pre-Health Programs
Preparing Students for Success By Elizabeth Sands Wise
When Dr. Benjamin Warf ‘80 moved with his wife and six children to Uganda in 2000 to work in a remote hospital with CURE International, he thought he was leaving his academic career in pediatric neurosurgery behind. But, as Warf says of his journey, “God’s plans were much more than I could have asked or imagined.” As the founding medical director of CURE Children’s Hospital in Mbale, Uganda, he encountered high rates of neurological disorders, including hydrocephalus (“water on the brain”). Without treatment, 50% of children with hydrocephalus will die before the age of two and the standard treatment in the United States—inserting shunts to relieve the liquid—is not only costly but requires time-intensive follow-up care. Warf’s Ugandan patients’ limited resources made the procedure nearly impossible. Warf developed a new, minimally invasive, shuntless treatment — a lower cost solution that required much less post-surgery care. During his six years in Uganda, Warf also designed a neurosurgery training program in order to equip other surgeons with new treatment options for hydrocephalus patients. According to CURE Hydrocephalus, a division of CURE International, approximately 79% of children suffering from hydrocephalus live in the developing world where treatment options are rare to nonexistent.
3 | GC MAGAZINE | Fall 2015
As a result of Dr. Warf’s pioneering work, CURE Uganda is now recognized as a leader in the treatment of hydrocephalus and the CURE Hydrocephalus Surgeon Fellowship program has trained and equipped dozens of surgeons to respond to this serious neurological disorder. As it turned out, when Warf moved to Uganda, he wasn’t leaving his academic career behind. A little over a decade later, Warf was awarded a MacArthur Foundation Genius grant for his pioneering work with hydrocephalus and he now serves as the Hydrocephalus and Spina Bifida Chair and Director of Neonatal and Congenital Anomalies Neurosurgery at Boston Children’s Hospital, and as Associate Professor of Neurosurgery at Harvard Medical School. In addition, Warf continues to be involved with CURE International, serving as the Medical Director of CURE Hydrocephalus, as Director of Research for the CURE Children’s Hospital of Uganda, and as a member of the CURE International Board of Trustees. Warf’s academic and medical career and his vocation to serve in medical missions remain tightly intertwined. Certainly Dr. Warf’s achievements are extraordinary — his hydrocephalus treatment alone has already saved tens of thousands of lives in Uganda—but that a GC alumnus was equipped to do such extraordinary work shouldn’t be surprising to those familiar with the exceptional science program at Georgetown College. President Greene notes that, “One cannot help but be deeply impressed with the quality of work done in the sciences at Georgetown.” A Georgetown education grounded in the health-related majors — biology, chemistry, biochemistry, and pre-health — not only equips students academically, preparing them for success