Preparing Boys for Life.

Ted Wagner '58

We need to develop techniques that work; you can’t send a vaccine to a country unrefrigerated, so you have to develop a box that can take the energy from the sun and convert that box into a refrigerator. It’s the practical things that are probably the most important for public health and for the world.

The Haverford School Ted Wagner Alumni Spotlight

Orphaned boy Lang Tang Village, Nepal.

What was your experience as an emergency medical worker following the Nepal earthquake?

I arrived three days after the earthquake in April 2015 and was faced with hundreds and hundreds of injured patients, many of them very seriously. As a senior surgeon, I became the triage officer sorting through the cases. The Nepalese organized seven operating rooms that they ran 24/7 for almost 10 days straight, working on about 250 patients during that time. Over the next two weeks I took medicine and food to the villages. I returned in November and continued to work with the same patients and doctors. The tenacity of these Buddhist patients is incredible; they suffer a tremendous amount of trauma and keep moving on. This was my first time working in a crisis situation, and I learned a lot working alongside the United Nations and World Health Organization, who are on the ground immediately following a disaster. I plan to go back to Nepal in August to teach and share ideas with other surgeons. They have learned to live without many supplies and resources, and have invented their own ways to accomplish some wonderful low cost procedures.

Whether you’re in east Africa or Asia, poverty is overwhelming at times and really prevents care. I have noticed that there are more common problems in medicine than there are unique problems. As far as orthopaedics, there are a lot of children, a lot of infections, a lot of fractures, and minimal supplies to take care of people.

Your profession as a surgeon has taken you around the world. What are the common threads to your work?

The Haverford school Ted Wagner alumni spotlight

The common denominator is poverty. Whether you’re in east Africa or Asia, poverty is overwhelming at times and really prevents care. I have noticed that there are more common problems in medicine than there are unique problems. As far as orthopaedics, there are a lot of children, a lot of infections, a lot of fractures, and minimal supplies to take care of people.

As a professor, what do you see as one of the key issues about which medical students should be educated?

The distribution of medicine and the distribution of teaching around that medicine needs to be shared with all countries around the world. I give enormous credit to Bill and Melinda Gates for their efforts. Along with Warren Buffet, they now have just short of $100 billion that’s working on international health. That kind of support and thinking is going to be the primary catalyst in ensuring the third world has a safe and a well-treated population. We need to develop techniques that work; you can’t send a vaccine to a country unrefrigerated, so you have to develop a box that can take the energy from the sun and convert that box into a refrigerator. It’s the practical things that are probably the most important for public health and for the world. For example, inventing a new toilet might help to reduce the transmission of infections and contamination of clean water supplies.

It’s the practical things that are probably the most important for public health and for the world. For example, inventing a new toilet might help to reduce the transmission of infections and contamination of clean water supplies.

What other organizations are you involved in?

I am involved with the University of Washington’s Department of Global Health, financed in part by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. We’re taking an epidemiology approach in trying to define the burden of spine disease worldwide. I also chaired the global medicine arm of the Scoliosis Research Society, getting to know surgeons around the world. I was operating in Syria the day the war broke out three years ago. We had a pretty exciting time getting out of there!

About Ted

Ted Wagner ’58 is a clinical professor of Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine at the University of Washington, specializing in spine surgery. He earned a bachelor's degree from Trinity College and a medical degree from the Temple University School of Medicine. He completed an internship in surgery in Montreal, a residency in orthopaedic surgery at UW, and a spine fellowship at the University of Hong Kong. He has been a surgeon in the U.S. Navy. Wagner is also an adjunct professor in the University of Washington’s Department of Neurological Surgery as well as the Department of Global Health.