Day One 2015 -Eric

Well we just spent our first day at the Women and Children’s Hospital. There have been some exciting changes since our last visit. The new oncology center has opened after several years of construction- it is really quite beautiful and well equipped. They even have a play room in the unit which is great to see. They also have several rooms which are devoted to the care of children post bone marrow transplant. The plan is that transplant will be done in the adult transplant facility (also a brand new program) and then transferred back to the children’s hospital for recovery. A scary thought since none of the current docs have any experience with transplant patients. I hope a plan will be developed for this transition. The other new and exciting thing is that starting in January, all the children with solid tumors, who are now taken care of at the National Cancer Center, will be cared for at the Children’s hospital. This is something we have been hoping to see for several years- but rather then a gradual transition, the plan now is for a complete change on January 1. The docs are excited but quite concerned as they have never taken care of any of these types of cancer nor do they know what the plan will be for more staff with a more then doubling of their patient volume. They are also very concerned about pathology support. It is both rewarding to see the small part we have played in helping to improve medical care for children here in Mongolia but also highlights the importance of keeping up our efforts to help.  This makes me more determined then ever to develop a more structured exchange system where we can bring the young oncology staff as well as pathologists to the US for 1-2 month observerships as well as have more frequent and consistent consultation by our team about diagnosis and treatment. 
To the Soud family- Jonathon’s legacy is clearly changing a small part of the world every day and thank you for letting us be a part of that legacy!

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