In 2000, Benjamin Warf, a pediatric neurosurgeon at Children’s Hospital Boston, took on a job as medical director and chief of surgery at the new CURE Children’s Hospital in a remote part of eastern Uganda. Children there had a high incidence of hydrocephalus (water on the brain), but traditional treatment using a shunt was untenable. Warf, one of 23 recipients of a just-announced 2012 MacArthur “genius” award , set out to fix this. According to a brief profile on the MacArthur Foundation website:
Because traditional treatment of hydrocephalus—insertion of shunts—is both prohibitively expensive and requires sustained medical monitoring beyond the reach of most children in the developing world, Warf pioneered an alternative, low-cost treatment. In carefully designed clinical trials, he demonstrated that a relatively straightforward, one-time treatment using modern endoscopic techniques (based on a surgical approach first attempted in the early twentieth century) results in outcomes that are at least as safe and effective as ventricular shunts, but requires far less medical infrastructure and post-surgical maintenance.