Martin Eichelberger of the United States wins the 2003 Abraham Horwitz Award for International Health Leadership

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The Pan American Health and Education Foundation, a US-based non-profit partner of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) awarded Dr. Martin R. Eichelberger the Abraham Horwitz Award for his outstanding contribution to improve the health in the Americas. The presentation of the award was made by the Foundation's Treasurer, Mr. Matthew McHugh, in an official ceremony during the 44th Directing Council of the Pan American Health Organization, held in Washington DC on 22 September.

horwitz03-02"Today we recognize Dr. Eichelberger, a world-renowned pediatric surgeon, for his far-reaching commitment to children and his movement beyond the traditional role of a surgeon to become a major international influence and successful advocate for the prevention of childhood injury. He has distinguished himself for a lifelong dedication to the medical and social aspects of child injuries", said Mr. McHugh.

The ceremony was attended by Ministers of Health from many of the countries of the Americas, including Dr. Pedro García of Chile, current President of PAHO's Directing Council. Also in attendance was former U.S. Surgeon General, Dr. C. Everett Koop, who nominated Dr. Eichelberger for the award. Other notable guests included PAHO's Director and Deputy Director, Dr. Mirta Roses and Dr. Joxel Garcia, respectively, Ms. Mary Lou Valdez of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and Ms. Jess Gersky, Executive Director of the Pan American Health and Education Foundation.

Dr. Eichelberger, a Brazilian born US citizen, is Director of Emergency Trauma and Burn Services and Attending Pediatric Surgeon at Children's National Medical Center in Washington, DC, and Professor of Surgery and Pediatrics at the George Washington University Medical Center, as well as President and Founder of SAFE KIDS Worldwide.

Early in his professional life, Dr. Eichelberger realized that every time a child was injured, society had failed to protect it. Treating the injured child was not the solution to the root problem. Better medical care needed to be accompanied by social efforts promoting safe attitudes and maintaining safe environments.

In 1988, Dr. Eichelberger founded the National SAFE KIDS Campaign in the US. Drawing on his Brazilian roots, in 2001 Dr. Eichelberger helped to institutionalize injury prevention in Brazil through the creation of SAFE KIDS Brazil, a program that operates with three local grassroots coalitions reaching thousands of families in Sao Paulo, Curitiba and Recife. His commitment to keeping children in Brazil safe is indeed the driving force behind the injury prevention movement that is now underway in Mexico, Chile and Argentina, and will eventually benefit all countries in the Region of the Americas.

During his acceptance speech, Dr. Eichelberger said: "We still face many challenges in trying to curb the effect of unintentional injury on children's lives. It is difficult to deliver cutting-edge pediatric medical care and rehabilitation in every neighborhood. But we can work to make sure every community has a coalition of people who care enough to deliver information, safety devices and the promise of preventing unintentional injuries to children. We must ensure that the good medicine of prevention is available to all. As Dr. Abraham Horwitz recognized many years ago, "Health is a social product that is everyone's responsibility." All of these locally based efforts can and do add up to make a difference in children's lives. Here is another example of the effect people who care about injury prevention can have—since the National SAFE KIDS Campaign was established, the childhood injury death rate in the United States has plummeted nearly 40 percent. This translates into 26,000 young lives saved over the past fifteen years. These are children who will potentially develop into leaders of a nation", noted Dr. Eichelberger.

Dr. Martin Eichelberger was born in Bahia, Brazil. He graduated from Princeton University in 1967 and received a medical degree from the Hahnemann University in 1971. He is married to Mrs. Nancy Eichelberger and has 2 children, Todd and Lindsay.

The Abraham Horwitz Award is intended to stimulate excellence and leadership in health among persons who work in the Americas and who produce ideas and work primarily of regional significance. Candidates must have an outstanding lifetime career in medicine or public health demonstrating impact on the lives and health of the peoples of Latin America and the Caribbean. The Award is a tribute to another outstanding regional leader, Dr. Abraham Horwitz, a Chilean doctor who served as the director of PAHO for four terms and the President of our Foundation for 25 years.

The Horwitz award consists of a certificate and a cash prize of US$5000. The winner is selected by a distinguished jury, consisting of representatives of PAHO and the Pan American Health and Education Foundation. This year the winner was selected from 46 outstanding candidates nominated by the Ministers of Health of all the countries of Americas.

Download Dr. Martin Eichelberger's speech (PDF)

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