A lifetime of selfless service was rewarded last month when retired Johns Hopkins Hospital surgeon and Cockeysville resident Dr. David Hungerford was given the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons' Humanitarian Award at the association's annual meeting in Chicago in mid-March.
"I can't think of anybody more deserving of an award like this," Michael Mont, a former Hopkins colleague, said. "It's not something he did for awards: It was in his heart and soul."
Mont, who is now the director of Joint Preservation and Reconstruction at Sinai Hospital, said Hungerford's humanitarian efforts are "part of his whole being and essence."
The 74-year-old Hungerford said that while growing up in Sodus, N.Y., his parents were role models when it came to giving their time to those in need. His own philanthropy began in the early 1970s when he started doing mission work with Towson Presbyterian Church.
Since then, he's gone on mission trips worldwide and been a part of several philanthropic organizations. He has helped train doctors and other medical personnel in Zambia, Ethiopia, Kenya, Ghana and Liberia. He sits on the board at CURE International, a faith-based organization which provides surgeries for the disabled. He said CURE has opened 10 mission hospitals in 10 countries in Latin America, Africa, the Middle East and the Caribbean since 1998; and those hospitals now see more than 100,000 patients a year.
He and his family, including wife, Heide; and sons, Marc, Kyle and Lars, also founded a pair of charities.
Christian Orthopaedic Partners, which he said is no longer active, consisted of other surgeons and orthopaedic equipment salesmen who would bring materials and provide training to doctors at mission hospitals around the world. Another, the Tree of Life Foundation, gave grants to micro-businesses.
"I'm a big fan of micro-enterprise," Hungerford said. All of the grants — he said they gave out around 1,500 in the foundation's 28-year run — went toward improving the infrastructure of communities or organizations.
For example, the foundation bought commercial sewing equipment for a nonprofit in Ghana. The equipment was used to make elastic bands, which were then sold to underwear manufacturers.
"They used that to fund the mission," Hungerford said. "The equipment lasted about 15 years, and provided a source of employment and income for the nonprofit agency for whom the grant was given."
Inspired by 'tenderness' of family doctor
Hungerford's desire to go into medicine stemmed from a childhood accident in which his face was badly burned after the furnace exploded.
"The local doctor had to come every morning and cut my lips apart with a pair of scissors, and he did this with so much care and tenderness and sensitivity that I decided from that moment on, that's what I wanted to do," Hungerford said. "Looking back on it, I wanted people to think about me that way I think about him."
Hungerford spent most of his career at two institutions: Johns Hopkins Hospital, where he was chief of the Arthritis Division in the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, and Good Samaritan Hospital, where he was chief of Orthopaedics.
He hoped to retire in 1998 and transition into a mission hospital full-time. But while on a mission trip to Kenya that year, he realized that his joint reconstruction skills weren't a key need in third-world countries. He recognized he could be of more service in the organizational and fundraising aspects of charities, and he now currently sits on the boards of several helping organizations.
Since his retirement in 2011, Hungerford is splitting his time between homes in Cockeysville and Arizona, devoting his time to TRAC5, an organization focused on Muslim-Christian reconciliation.
"Basic premise of our organization is that Christians and Muslims are at each other's throats because Muslims don't understand Christians and Christians don't understand Muslims," he said. "A lot of the things they're arguing about is really a misunderstanding. Our goal and role is to educate … so that we can end this whole confrontation."
When being presented with the award during the academy's meeting in mid-March, the presenter, Dr. John Tongue, said that Hungerford's efforts have made him "a role model to many and motivated more than 100 academy residents and fellows to give back. He is a remarkable humanitarian, mentor and leader."