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Published on January 06, 2020

Physician Scholars and Clinical Volunteers chosen in new grant programs from Montage Health Foundation

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The first Physician Scholars and Clinical Volunteers have been named by Montage Health Foundation, which is recognizing outstanding Monterey County doctors and providing grants in support of their pursuit of professional excellence and volunteer work.

Members of the first class of physician scholars are: Dr. Anders Dahlstrom, Dr. Peter Gerbino, Dr. Arina Golubeva-Ganeles, Dr. Douglas Sunde, and Dr. Jill Tiongco.

Recipients of the first physician volunteer grants are: Dr. Richard Alexander, Dr. David Awerbuck, Dr. Robert Collins, Dr. Chris Hansen, and Dr. David Morwood.

“These physician scholars represent what is best about our local doctors, who as a medical staff are committed to staying on the forefront of medical knowledge,” says Dr. Dan Hightower, who chaired the selection committee. “The selection committee was also impressed with the variety of volunteer endeavors our physicians undertake in using their talents around the world, and these grants will support them to help so many others."

The Physician Scholars and Clinical Volunteers programs were established by Montage Health Foundation in 2019 as part of a broader effort by Montage Health to engage, recruit, and retain the finest doctors for our community. A total of $114,300 in grants was awarded to the 10 recipients.

The programs are open to all independent, private practice, Montage Medical Group, or hospital-based physicians on the Monterey Peninsula. The first honorees were selected by the foundation’s grants subcommittee, led by Hightower and including Dr. Jill Airola, Dr. Lauren Farac, Dr. Michael Fritsch, Dr. Guru Khalsa, Dr. Zach Koontz, Dr. Craig Stauffer, and Margi Wiest, a member of the Montage Health Foundation Board.

“We’re extremely pleased to present our first grants to these amazing doctors, who are committed to constantly learning and growing and to using their expertise to serve people in need,” says Kevin Causey, who leads the foundation as vice president and chief development officer of Montage Health.

Following is information about the honorees and their work.

Physician Scholars

Dr. Anders Dahlstrom, a specialist in pediatric gastroenterology for about 30 years, was awarded a grant to attend the 4th World Congress of Digestive Diseases in China, to deliver a keynote speech on a research project.

Dahlstrom’s speech focused on research into using treatments other than antibiotics for gastrointestinal disorders and autoimmune conditions, including inflammatory bowel disease, food allergies, and celiac disease. The congress draws 3,000 doctors from around the world.

Dr. Arina Golubeva-Ganeles, who specializes in oncology and hematology, was awarded a grant to complete the first phase of an intensive year-long course in clinical cancer genetics through the City of Hope, a specialist in cancer research. Ganeles will participate in the course through distance learning so that she may maintain her practice in Monterey. 

Personalized medicine through genetic testing is the future of medicine in general and cancer care specifically, Ganeles said her in application. Participating in the course will both strengthen her clinical skills in cancer genetics and lay a foundation for a more comprehensive approach to cancer prevention in the community.

Dr. Peter Gerbino, an orthopedic surgeon, was awarded a grant to attend a Stanford University Business School program, The Innovative Health Care Leader: From Design Thinking to Personal Leadership.

Gerbino has served in numerous leadership roles at Community Hospital, including chief of surgery and chief of orthopedics. He is currently a member of six hospital committees and workgroups. The Stanford program focuses on tackling the uncertainty in healthcare today, and driving innovation through working with others.

Dr. Jill Tiongco, a primary care doctor with Montage Medical Group and chief medical informatics officer for Montage Health, was awarded a grant to attend the Advanced Management Program at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. The program immerses participants in a rigorous combination of coursework, coaching, and experiential learning to develop visionary leadership capabilities.

Tiongco was one of the first physicians recruited when Montage Medical Group was started a decade ago to help reduce the shortage of doctors on the Monterey Peninsula. Within Montage Health, she played a key role in the adoption of a new electronic health record system in 2018, and was named chief medical informatics officer, the intersection of computer science and healthcare.

Dr. Douglas Sunde, plastic surgeon, was awarded a grant to provide training in plastic surgery, particularly hand surgery, to Stanford University Medical School residents and fellows. Sunde is an adjunct assistant clinical professor at Stanford and conducts the training at the Palo Alto Veterans Administration Hospital, operating on veterans during day-long teaching sessions 10 times each year.

Sunde provides one-on-one instruction on technique, problem-solving, and leadership, and says he also learns from the medical students, residents, and fellows. The relationship also fosters the affiliation between Montage Health and Stanford.

Clinical Volunteers

Dr. Richard Alexander, an obstetrician/gynecologist, was awarded a grant to support efforts to provide healthcare at Westmont Bethel Hospital in Guatemala. For 17 years, Alexander has volunteered at and raised money for Westmont, a nonprofit hospital that cares for underserved residents in the poorest section of the city. No one is turned away for inability to pay. Alexander and other Americans, including other Monterey Peninsula residents, raise funds for the hospital each year, and he volunteers there every January. He serves as the medical liaison and assists with procuring medical equipment, supplies, and funding.

Dr. David Awerbuck, an ear, nose, and throat specialist, was awarded a grant to provide equipment and training to perform endoscopic sinus surgeries at the Children’s Surgical Centre in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Awerbuck volunteered at the clinic twice in the past year, providing equipment, training the surgeons there, and performing 16 surgeries. The care is free and is aimed at improving the quality of life for disabled children and adults. Awerbuck plans to volunteer twice a year and is making plans to teach the staff thyroid surgery.

Dr. Robert Collins, an Emergency department doctor at Community Hospital, was awarded a grant to support volunteer service with Community Health Partnership Honduras. Collins is part of a team of doctors, nurses, pharmacists, and others who travel to the rural community of Opatoro, Honduras, to provide critical medical care and medicines to the poverty-stricken and violence-ridden area. The clinicians care for 150 to 200 patients a day, who come from nearby communities. They hold educational sessions at the local library, staff the clinic, and provide home visits to the most infirm. Collins volunteers annually with the program, which has a year-round presence for consistency in care.

Dr. Chris Hansen, a pathologist and medical director of Community Hospital’s laboratory, was awarded a grant for volunteer work in Rwanda, where he provides training on pathology practices to diagnose disease. Rwanda has a population of more than 12 million, and only 14 full-time pathologists. Hansen also provides clinic kits with medical supplies that can be used for thousands of patients. Hansen travels to Rwanda every other year; in the off years, he coordinates training for Rwanda pathology residents at UC Davis Medical Center. Hansen has volunteered in Africa since 2009.

Dr. David Morwood, a plastic surgeon, was awarded a grant for his volunteer work providing free plastic surgery for children in developing countries who have cleft lip and palate deformities, burned hands, and other issues. Morwood has provided these surgeries around the world for the last 30 years, working with organizations including Rotaplast International, Inc., and Alliance for Smiles. His grant will help support trips and provide medical supplies in the Philippines and Egypt in 2020.

“Our community is fortunate to have so many doctors doing such meaningful work at home and around the world,” says Steven Packer, MD, president/CEO of Montage Health. “We’re pleased Montage Health Foundation is able to provide some support to recognize the vital work they are doing, in so many ways. The work of these doctors has impacts within our community and far beyond.”

About Montage Health Foundation

Montage Health Foundation’s mission is to inspire giving that enhances and improves the health of the entire community. Gifts to the foundation take healthcare to the homeless, build mental health programs for young people, recruit primary care doctors and specialists, teach kids to eat better and exercise more, sustain a hospital that sustains the community, and much more. The foundation is guided by a board of community members who are passionate about the work and impact of Montage Health and its family of companies, including Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula. Call (831) 658-3630 or visit mhfdn.org for more information.

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