American Board of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery
Diplomates Making a Difference: (May 2015)
Sanford Ratner, DDS
Nomination essay presented for Recognition by Colleagues:
Dr. Sanford Ratner embodies the finest traditions of our specialty. He has a very successful practice in California. Surgically gifted, Sandy is widely acknowledged as the surgeons’ surgeon when it comes to managing complex trauma cases, failed TMJ surgeries or patients with craniofacial anomalies. He is chief of the oral surgery section at St. Joseph Hospital and has been a member of the examination committee of the American Board of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery. He is on the faculty at the UCLA School of Dentistry, Section of Oral and Maxillofacial surgery where he teaches once a week. As a faculty member of AO North America he is actively involved in teaching the principles of maxillofacial trauma.
Less known is Sandy’s record of providing humanitarian care in far flung places bereft of articulated specialty care systems. For over 20 years, he organized surgical camps to treat craniofacial anomalies, particularly cleft lips and palates, in Vietnam, Fiji and Nepal. Ever the educator, he always takes other US surgeons and residents on these trips. As part of the program, everyone who participates pays their own way and pays the local hospitals to treat and feed the children they treated. He developed liaisons with local surgeons who often save up complicated cases for him to see.Interchanging knowledge while working side by side a number of diverse and complicated cases are treated. Dr. Ratner travels twice a year to Saigon and frequently to other locations in the country and on separate missions to other countries. It is estimated that over thirty residents have participate in this very worthy cause. Paraphrasing one surgeon involved in many trips: I can’t think of anyone more deserving of recognition for his humanitarian work than Sandy Ratner. His enthusiasm for oral surgery and teaching is not matched by anyone. He is a mentor and close friend. I was with him on the first trip to Vietnam and I have gone every year since it started. Yet another colleague states: Sandy’s compassion, empathy and humanity exude from the images of his trips and the clinical cases he shares at out morning surgical rounds. Most importantly, he is incredibly modest always phrasing these trips as journeys of humanity and learning instead of see how great I am expositions. The world would be a much better place if we had more Sandy Ratner’s. He is a colleague and friend we are very proud to have on our faculty at UCLA.
Personal Statement after receiving this Honor:
In 1999 I was invited to the University of Santo Tomas in Manila to help treat a nine year old Nepalese boy. He had been unable to open his mouth since he fell at age four. Two weeks later, I was in the Philippines giving a lecture to 200 doctors on management of facial fractures. The next day I reduced his ankylosis and reconstructed his ramus. The experience of teaching and operating with these dedicated surgeons was exhilarating. I returned to the Philippines two more times helping with cleft lip and palate children. Following these first missions, I traveled with a large medical and surgical group to small villages in Vietnam. Here, we operated in isolation from the local health care providers. Simultaneously I traveled as solo surgeon to Nepal to work with Prashanta Shresthra, the only program trained maxillo-facial surgeon in that country. I was able to teach and be taught by him and his colleagues. This collaboration fueled my desire to include our UCLA residents in these missions, creating an atmosphere encouraging free flow of knowledge and skill sets between faculty and residents from major hospitals without national boundaries.
Stemming from these experiences, I realized that operating in less fortunate countries is a privilege which should never be taken lightly. Our purpose is to provide knowledge, skills and instrumentation not available in the countries we visit. We must offer advanced techniques at a higher level than they presently possess. To obtain these qualities, I have traveled, as a student, to Taiwan to learn cleft craft with Dr. Yu-Ray Chen, to Israel to study facial trauma management with Professor Arie Shteyer. Eventually, I created a foundation with a close friend from Vietnam. Our mission statement is to supply health care to underserved populations in Asia and the Pacific Rim. We have created allegiances with residency programs in Ho Chi Minh and Hanoi, Vietnam, Kathmandu, Nepal, and most recently Labasa, Fiji. I am thankful for the relationships I have been allowed to create and all the friends I have made.
I believe we have a responsibility to share our good fortune and give of ourselves to those less fortunate. When people tell me that my efforts are selfless, I smile, because I know that I have received so much more than I have given.