Who We Are

is the Chief of the Pediatric Hematology Oncology Division at Nemours Children’s Clinic in Jacksonville, Florida and an Associate Professor at Mayo School of Medicine. He attended medical school at the University of Vermont and completed his pediatric residency at the University of California in San Francisco. Dr. Sandler then completed a Pediatric Hematology/Oncology Fellowship at the University of Florida in Gainesville. After completing his training, he obtained his first faculty appointment at Southwestern Medical School in Dallas, Texas, as Director of the Pediatric Bone Marrow Transplant Program. In 1998, Dr. Sandler was appointed to his current position at Nemours Children’s Clinic in Jacksonville. Dr. Sandler has served as the founding Chair of the Pediatric Blood and Marrow Transplant Consortium and has participated on various committees of the Intergroup Rhabdomyosarcoma Study Group, the Pediatric Oncology Group and the Children’s Oncology Group. He has coordinated several national research studies and authored over 50 publications on various aspects of pediatric cancer and blood disorders.

Dr. Sandler has been happily married to his wife, Marcy, for the last 29 years and they have 4 wonderful children, Jenna (25), Alyssa (23), Ethan (20) and Justin (16). Dr. Sandler recently was awarded the Lane Adams Award by the American Cancer Society. Dr Sandler believes that it is critically important to not only cure children with cancer, but to prevent long-term side effects, to control pain, and to keep life as normal as possible during the cancer journey. Dr. Sandler is well respected by his colleagues all over the country, but most important he is loved and appreciated by his patients and their families. His personal experience as the parent of a child with cancer gives him a special understanding of what families go through as they travel the cancer journey.

Read on here for more about why this journey is special to Dr. Sandler.

I am Jonathan’s dad.  I could tell you lots of things about me—what I do for a living, how much education I have, my hobbies, etc.—but none of that is really important.  What matters is that I was a good father to Jonathan throughout his life, but most especially during those awful 3 ½ months between his diagnosis with leukemia and his death from the disease.  I was in the hospital room holding Jonathan’s hand that early September afternoon when Jonathan told Eric that he was interested in Mongolia and Eric replied, “Mongolia.  I’ve always wanted to go to Mongolia.”

The day Jonathan passed away I told Eric that we needed to make Mongolia happen, but I hadn’t the slightest intention of going myself.  Months later (November, I think) I came to Nemours to meet with Eric and discuss plans for what was supposed to be his trip to Mongolia.  At that meeting he looked across his desk and said to me, “Maybe you should think about going; it could be part of your healing process.”  Tears welled into my eyes, and at that moment  I knew that I had to go.  I will confess that I am making the trip a little reluctantly—even anxiously—but I am doing it for my son because I know he would want me to do it.  I don’t know what type of healing this mission will bring me, but I have faith that Jonathan’s presence will somehow become apparent as we travel to and work in Mongolia.

I’m Natalie Soud, Jonathan Soud’s older sister. I live in New York, where I am a graphic designer; I also have a personal blog that I was inspired to pursue because of Jonathan.

Purely because I wanted to honor Jonathan and his giving, compassionate spirit, I’ve run two marathons with the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s Team in Training program. If you’ve never heard of it, the program trades expert training & nutrition advice, team practices, and event registration for fundraising to help battle blood cancers. Before Jonathan even knew he was sick (but was), he was so excited to be practicing with the Bolles cross country team, so I could think of no better way to battle alongside him, especially because his medical complications left him unable to run or even get out of bed much. When I started training for the first marathon, Jonathan was still with us; by the time I ran it, he had finally been released from the pain and suffering his illness caused. His spirit, however, is certainly present in the generous donations he inspired, which will go on to help other kids battle leukemia.

This journey to Mongolia is, to me, another way that Jonathan’s unique spirit will live on in this world. Jonathan’s passion for pursuing his interests, one of which was travel, taught me that we have to be intentional about life; his compassion and consummate kindness showed me what makes life worth living. And so we are setting out to Mongolia, a place Jonathan so badly wanted to visit, to spread that love and compassion to the children of The Children’s Place orphanage and the Mongolia Mother & Child Hospital (the only hospital in the nation specializing in pediatrics).

I’m Paul, Jonathan’s brother. I’m 21 years old and a rising senior at Davidson College, a small liberal arts school just north of Charlotte, NC. I’m a History major and soon-to-be Spanish minor. In my freshman year at Davidson, I took a class entitled “World Music.” During this class, we learned about Mongolian “throat-singing” and Paul Pena, a blind American blues musician who had traveled to Mongolia to learn this art. This association with blues, a favored genre of mine, had left me with a desire to see Mongolia but no expectation that I would ever get a chance to. As my interest was developing, so was that of my brother.

Jonathan’s appreciation for Globe Trekker brought him to the Mongolia episode, and his naturally adventurous spirit was immediately attracted to this exotic land. Sadly, he never got the opportunity to go to Mongolia. However, that’s why we’re going. Though Jonathan’s body may not be present, his soul surely will be as we travel. As the hours to departure count down, I’m thankful for the opportunity to visit this distant land and help spread Jonathan’s impact on the world.

My name is Justin Sandler. I am 16 years old, and I am very excited to be able to go to Mongolia. When my Dad told me that he was going to Mongolia to start a children’s oncology program there, I thought it was so cool and I wanted to go with him. I love to travel, and it is my goal in life to visit every place in the world. Then my Dad told me why he is going and told me about Jonathan and his fascination with exotic places. That inspired me even more to go. I never had the pleasure of meeting Jonathan, but based on all the stories I’ve heard about him, I know I would’ve liked him. Then, I decided that I didn’t just want to go and sit there while my dad was working at the children’s hospital, so I decided that I would interact with children in a different way, by teaching soccer at The Children’s Place orphanage in Ulaanbataar, Mongolia. Soccer is my passion as I have played since I was four years old. I am getting so excited for this trip. In fact, just today a dozen soccer balls arrived at my house, balls that I’m going to bring to the orphanage. Every day, I look at the calendar and count the days. It is driving me crazy waiting! I am ready to go today. I am not too nervous about the trip as I have traveled out of the country alone a couple times. The only thing I am worried about is whether I will like the food. However, being a teenage boy, that is a worry I have wherever I go, and I always seem to come out okay! I’ll report again soon from Mongolia!

I have been a pediatric oncology nurse at Wolfson Children’s Hospital for 8 years and just celebrated my 10 year anniversary at Nemours Children’s Clinic. I have been married for 22 years to Clay who is a lieutenant with the Jacksonville Fire Department. We have 3 children, Aaron (20), Kelsey (19) and Alex (15).

I was Jonathan’s clinic oncology nurse. I anticipated assuming his care on the outpatient clinic side but his battle was fought inpatient at the hospital. Week after week we shared stories about his persistent fight to beat his leukemia, his incredibly positive attitude and how he won over the hearts of all who came in contact with him!

I’m thankful for this incredible opportunity to grow both personally and professionally! I can’t wait to see the country and learn how they provide oncology care to their patients. Jonathan was a caring person who motivated the people around him so I hope as a member of this group I can personify those same qualities as I meet and educate the medical staff in Mongolia.

I am John, the pharmacist of our medical mission team. I am very blessed that I get to be part of the effort to achieve Jonathan’s dream of helping other children fighting cancer. I was deeply moved by Jonathan’s strength and positive attitude when we were fighting the battle with him on the 5th Floor of Wolfson Children’s Hospital, and his strong will to help others even after he has left us physically. It is my honor to bear witness for Jonathan in another continent more than eleven thousand kilometers away from where we met.

To me, it all started five years ago, long before we met Jonathan. In a casual conversation with Dr. Sandler, I discovered our common interest in serving in other countries. He shared with me his special connections with the missionary doctors in Ulaanbaatar and his long-term consultant relationship with the hospital. We both got very excited and started looking into a possible mission trip to Mongolia. However, despite our effort to connect with some previous mission organizations that I have worked with and Dr Sandler’s connections with the local hospital, a mission trip was not feasible, so we tabled that thought. Little did we know that it was just not the right timing and it was then when the seed of this mission trip was planted.

There are many different ways that a person and his/her family cope with challenges in life. Some react in anger, anxiety, control; some cope with love, collateral support, and strength. Jonathan was one of the most loving, gentle, positive patients I have met. No matter how bad the situation was, Jonathan always greeted us with a big smile on his face. He was always gentle and kind, but very strong. Paralyzed by his medical conditions, Jonathan worked really hard day after day to get stronger and eventually was sit upright in a wheelchair. Though Jonathan was a strong fighter, he could never have fought such a battle without the support from his loving family and all his friends. The support that he had was just overwhelming! Cards, gifts, visits, and even a song written for him. Later did I find out that it was also Jonathan’s wish to serve in Mongolia. It is really a blessing to see how the same vision, planted in two different persons, now come together finally because of one boy’s wish to extend his helping hands to children in Mongolia and his supportive family and friends working hard to fulfill this boy’s dream.

I am very excited about this mission trip! I would love to be part of this initiative to spread Jonathan’s strength, gentleness, positive attitudes, as well as healing and knowledge back home to Asia, where I have never served as a clinician. Although Steve and I always joked about our one major difference in life (cheering for Spain vs the Netherlands during World Cup), it was an honor to fight alongside the Souds then, and after Jonathan has left us to go back to our Father, to fight against childhood cancers, and to bring light and hope to the other side of Earth where cancer still kills almost all of the affected children.

On September 18, 2010, just a few days prior to his 13th birthday, Jonathan Andrew Soud passed from the loving arms of his family into those of our Lord. His courage in his battle against leukemia and its attendant complications, and the noble spirit with which he conducted it, were examples to all. Jonathan fought the good fight.

From the time he was born, Jonathan was the light of our lives. God endowed him with a gentle spirit, a loving compassion, and a joy for life that made him a delight to be around. Everyone knew his smile-it radiated warmth and kindness. These traits expressed themselves in all of his interests and activities.

Always musically inclined, Jonathan took up piano at age 7, progressing to the point of playing Beethoven, earning Superiors at the local competition of the National Federation of Music Clubs, and being honored with the Student of the Year Award by his piano instructor. In 2009 began learning clarinet, going on to earn the Beginning Band Award at The Bolles School in the spring of 2010. He always enjoyed attending performances of the Jacksonville Symphony.

He loved our church, where he served as an acolyte. His youth group friends were extremely important to him, and he especially enjoyed performing in their annual variety show and leading worship on Youth Sunday. Character mattered, too: at school he chose to run for and was selected by a faculty committee for the Middle School Honor Council.

He was a merry traveler, always ready to take the next family trip to the Grand Canyon or to Maine. He could spend hours on Google Maps or buried in an atlas, exploring the four corners of the globe. His favorite television shows were Globe Trekker and Aarti Party, and he never hesitated to try new foods, whether it was jamón from Spain or sushi from Japan. As someone once remarked, at age 12 he had a more adventurous palate than most adults.

Jonathan loved to run long distances and well knew the meaning of endurance. On his last 2-mile run with the cross-country team, in the heat of a May afternoon, he was, unbeknownst to all, already exhibiting the early signs of leukemia. Yet Jonathan finished the race.

Our family often said that Jonathan was easily the best human being among us, and he constantly proved that through his selflessness, his generosity, and his courtesy. Even in the depths of his illness he cooperated with his doctors and nurses like few other patients, and he never failed to thank them for anything they had done for him. He loved his caregivers, and his sweet spirit and gentle patience elicited love and admiration from them. Though only a child, Jonathan understood that love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Jonathan is survived by his parents (Steve and Cathy), his sister Natalie, his brother Paul, his maternal grandmother (Alice Verlander), his paternal grandparents (Gene and June Soud), and a host of other family members. In faith, we look forward to the day we are reunited with Jonathan in God’s Kingdom.

Leave a comment


  1. May God bless and hold you all as you reach out to his children in Mongolia. Our God is a mighty God.
    Jonathan’s legacy of love and service will continue.

  2. Christina Williams

     /  July 2, 2012

    This is such a touching website site and a wonderful tribute to Jonathan. I look forward to reading about your adventures! Best wishes for a fun, enlightening, and healing trip.

  3. A friend posted this link on FB. What a wonderful story of love and service. Prayers for all of you and for Mongolia.

  4. Misty Weise

     /  August 1, 2012

    To the Soud family, I was always in awe of your spirit and ability to care for others during your time of grief. This is such an amazing tribute to Jonathan. I keep his memory close to my heart and think of you all frequently. God is definitely doing great works through you all, and I know the people of Mongolia are greatful!

    • Steve Soud

       /  August 2, 2012

      Misty, you are so special to us! We think of you and so many others on the PICU very often. Please stay in touch!

  5. Jennifer

     /  September 19, 2012

    I am so very honored to have met and cared for Jonathan. He is one of the few people I have ever met who, even at his sickest moments, smiled and said “thank you” for the medical care he was receiving. One meeting with Jonathan was all anyone needed to be captured by his sweet personality and infectious smile. I think of your family often and I cannot think of a more beautiful way to carry on Jonathan’s spirit. You will all remain in my thoughts and prayers as you travel.

  6. A Unique blog on medical services + introduction of a family! wonderful !!!


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