The American College of Surgeons (ACS) Board of Governors announced that Barbara Barlow, MD, professor emeritus of Surgery in Epidemiology, Columbia Mailman School of Public Health, is a recipient of the 2018 ACS/Pfizer Domestic Surgical Volunteerism Award for her dedication to preventing injuries to the children of Harlem and across the U.S.
Barlow has dedicated her academic and research career and her activism to improving the health of children, focusing her research on traumatic injury to children and injury prevention. She founded the Injury Free Coalition for Kids at Columbia Mailman School of Public Health and serves as its Executive Director. A national program developed with funding from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Injury Free comprises hospital-based, community-oriented programs focused on research, education, and advocacy. The coalition has more than 40 sites nationally and serves as a clearinghouse for childhood injury prevention resources.
She was the first woman to train in pediatric surgery at Babies Hospital, Columbia University Medical Center, now Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital, and spent her career working at Harlem Hospital Center and Columbia, first as chief of pediatric surgery and then as director of surgery, until retiring from active practice in 2009.
In her training, Barlow saw that the rate of children hospitalized for preventable injuries in Harlem was twice the national average, with the deadliest injuries being falls from unsecured windows. After documenting these injuries, she worked with city administrators to develop prevention strategies and supported New York City’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene’s ordinance requiring landlords to install window guards.
Barlow also observed that many children were being injured by faulty and dangerous equipment on Harlem’s school playgrounds. To address these preventable injuries, she obtained funds to repair Harlem’s playgrounds and enlisted community organizations. To date, more than 40 new playgrounds have been built in Harlem, and a coalition of funding sources and Harlem community organizations now offer after-school activities ranging from sports to creative art classes.
Barlow’s accomplishments have been recognized by awards from the American Hospital Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the National Safety Council, and the Centers for Disease Control Foundation, among others.
Barlow is one of five 2018 humanitarian and volunteerism award recipients and will be formally recognized by the American College of Surgeons at their Clinical Congress 2018 held in Boston on October 23.