Here we go again!

Hard to believe that I will be shortly heading back to the land of Chengis Khan for the 3rd time. Having missed the trip last year, I am excited to see my Mongolian friends and colleagues, to see what changes they have made over the last 2 years and to see the new cancer center. As I tell people often, these trips to Mongolia are among the most rewarding things I am fortunate enough to be able to do.
My life has been so enriched by having had the privilege to know and care for  Jonathan and to know his wonderful family- Cathy, Steve, Natalie, Paul, Luke and Anna. I know on each and every visit Jonathan’s spirit is there with us and inspiring all that we do.
So- the team is ready, the lectures are written and off we go…
-Eric Sandler

On the way home – 2014 (John)


Telling Jonathan’s story

It has been two years, Jonathan.  First time I went in 2012, I was inspired by your dream and wanted to be part of the team to live it out.  I went without knowing much about this country Mongolia that fascinated you, except that the people are traditionally nomads and their country neighbours my motherland.


2012 Mongolian Team


The kids at Soccer Camp 2012 singing us a naadam song as thanks.



On his way to the naadam horse race (2012).

With Candace’s and the boys’ great emotional support, I packed my bag and went!  I was blown away!!  I went home deeply inspired and touched.  I then understood why you were so fascinated about Mongolia!  The people there are so pure, content, positive, and happy.  Living their simple lives in the endless plains of the Mongolian Steppes, enjoying happy times with their family closely bound by their deep traditions in the warm gers, going through harsh winters with perseverance and strength, without fears… They have so much in common with you!  I was touched by their courage and strength to live… as nomads, as warriors against cancer.  I learnt the love that drives them to go on: the love of lives and nature; the love for their families.  I was moved by the innocent smiles that the Mongols patients had, even when battling life threatening diseases… just like you did.  I was touched by the love that the parents showed by being with them and holding them tightly… just like your parents did.  I learnt fatherhood at a deeper level when Steve was running around collecting Mongolian stones for you, and when he was praying in silence in Karakorum, and him turning your love into helping others.  I was inspired by the love of the doctors and nurses in Mongolia taking care of their little patients, even putting them before their own families… just like your doctors and nurses did.  I got to know two missionary families who went way way way before us to the Land of Blue Sky answering the Lord’s calling, taking care of Mongol children and being living testimonies of Christ’s love.  Two years later, these inspirations didn’t fade a bit; they only grew stronger!


Bone marrow needles used by the hospital in 2012. They now have single-use needles.


A mother holding her child tight.


Visiting with patient and her mother.

Thank you so much, Jonathan.  I would not have the opportunity to learn and experience all these without you.  Thank you for having such wonderful dream and letting us be part of it.  Jonathan, I thank our Father for giving you such a loving heart and being such strong living testimony of His love and sacrifice.  I can tell you that we made many friends in the Mother & Children’s Hospital and we are honoured to partner in battling childhood diseases in the U.S. and in Mongolia.  There are many things that we have learnt from each other.  We are making many changes to take better care of the patients entrusted to us because of you!  Although I may not be able to go back to Mongolia in the near future, I am forever bound with them via the friendship that is beyond time and space, just like ours.


2014 Mongolian Team.

Please continue to watch over us and inspire us.  We are honoured to partner with you to do all these and I will continue to tell these amazing stories… all started by one child’s dream.  The time will come when we meet again and chat and laugh over our little travel stories in person (milk curds in coffee, fly camp, Russian van…), until then, take good care of yourself and your family.

A Continuing Partnership: Dr. Eric Sandler Reflects


We are now out in the countryside and I wanted to take a few moments to reflect on our last few days at the National Center for Maternal and Child Health. We spent our afternoons giving lectures with our wonderful translators and our slides translated into Mongolian for the audience. This proved to be rewarding and exhausting. In the mornings, I continued to see patients in the Hematology/Oncology unit with a wide variety of hematologic and oncologic disorders. The staff seemed starved for new information- which likely comes from the fact that the most current literature is in English and few of the staff speak or read in English. This must prove very difficult for keeping up with current practices and treatment. I strongly encouraged the new doctors- residents and fellows- to think through a differential and use their available resources before jumping to a conclusion as to diagnosis.

We discussed the problem of iron overload and the need to chelate patients on chronic transfusion, which they do not routinely do. I was also struck by the number of patients with Hepatitis C despite the fact that “the national blood center has been “screening” all donors for the last 3 years. When we met with the hospital director, he too was surprised by this and will plan a formal study of this problem. The new cancer center building will be opening early next year and the plan is to have all children with cancer and blood disorders treated at the Children’s Hospital. Because they have not seen many of the solid tumor patients- they are a little apprehensive about now having to treat these patients. Dr. Chimgee has a plan in place to phase in the other patients by diagnosis and asked for help with treatment roadmaps. I believe that this will bring a new level to our collaborative efforts and I can’t wait to see the results next year.


So for now, we say farewell to our Mongolian friends and colleagues but look forward to an ongoing relationship!

-Eric Sandler

Making Strides in Pediatric Oncology in Mongolia: Dr. Eric Sandler’s Thoughts

We’ve now been at the Center For Maternal and Child Health for 3 days and working quite hard consulting on patients, teaching and learning in our respective specialties. I think we are all thoroughly exhausted at the end of the day (and jet lag doesn’t help either).  It was so exciting to hear that many of the chemotherapy drugs that they did not have last year, as well as recombinant factor concentrates are now on the formulary and being used. The oncology doctors feel that our recommendations made last year really helped to improve the formulary and we are already working on some formulary suggestions for next year. In addition, the pathology department now has a flow cytometer and all the reagents needed. Unfortunately, they have not yet had any instruction on use and interpretation of results so it is not being used yet. Hopefully that will come soon.  All the doctors and staff seem happy to have our input and I think we really do make a difference in the care that the children receive.

Today was the first day of our 3- day symposium giving lectures to faculty and residents. There were about 50-60 people in attendance and I didn’t see anyone fall asleep, which says something about their interest in what we have to say. Looking forward to 2 more days of hard work!



-Dr. Eric Sandler

Second Annual Trip to Mongolia: Dr. Eric Sandler Shares

Mongolia-Bound-Second-Trip-Eric-Sandler-Jonathan-SoudJust 2 weeks away from our second annual trip to Mongolia. We are all getting very excited. This year, instead of just a Hem/Onc team, our group includes Dr. Michael Gayle, a pediatric intensivist, Dr. Harry Abram, a pediatric neurologist and Adam Drake, a nurse at WCH.  Jonathan continues to work his magic as all of the health care team traveling to Mongolia has a direct connection to Jonathan and his inspiration to create a better world. I am also excited that my daughter Jenna will travel with us. Jenna is in the public health field and is anxious to learn more about public health programs and policies in Mongolia. Also different this year is a much more formal structure for our visit. Each afternoon we will be conducting a symposium for the medical students, residents, faculty and staff of the National Center for Maternal and Child Health of Mongolia. I understand that some of the physicians from the countryside will also be joining us for this symposium.

With the more formal structure, we have each been given temporary medical licenses in Mongolia and our presentations are being translated into Mongolian as well. Of course Wolfson Children’s Hospital has been instrumental in helping us in this endeavor- especially with fundraising and donating supplies. In fact, I’m not sure how I’m going to get them all there! I am especially excited to renew the friendships we formed on our last trip to Mongolia- Rita, Margie and their wonderful children. I am sure that we will also spend some time at the orphanage getting reacquainted with our friends there.

Of course, no trip to the other side of the world would be complete without a trip to the countryside with our awesome tour guide Dogii. This year we will follow in the footsteps of Genghis Khan, exploring eastern Mongolia which was his homeland. I know Dr. Abram and Dr. Gayle are very excited to sample Airag (fermented mares milk), cheese curds and an unlimited supply of mutton. Dr. Gayle is particularly excited for his Ger camping experience and Dr. Abram for riding horses through the steppes on a wooden saddle!

I will sorely miss my previous travel companions- Justin, Paul, Natalie, Steve, John and Sally- but I know each of them has their own special connection with Mongolia and will likely be back some day as well.

Talk to you again from Ulaanbaatar!

-Eric Sandler


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