In Zanzibar, Zambia, Tanzania, Ethiopia, and many other countries, access to pediatric heart care is often limited or nonexistent. In her time as a pediatric cardiologist with Save a Child’s Heart at Wolfson Medical Center in Holon, Israel, Dr. Alona Raucher Sternfeld’s work has taken her to these countries.
On her medical missions, she evaluates children in urgent need of heart care and creates strategies to get them the care they need to survive.
Dr. Raucher Sternfeld’s travels are part of her role at the helm of Save a Child’s Heart, a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing heart treatments to children, giving those born in countries with limited access to pediatric heart care a chance at life.
“What I do, I do as an Israeli,” said Dr. Raucher Sternfeld. “I think this is part of our Jewish tradition to do Tikun Olam — to heal the world — and this is what we do here.”
Dr. Raucher Sternfeld, who leads the entire pediatric cardiology unit at Wolfson Medical Center, has overseen treatment of all Save a Child’s Heart patients since 2005. She is one of many other medical team members at Wolfson who volunteer their time to treat children through Save a Child’s Heart.
Since its founding, Save a Child’s Heart has provided life-saving heart care to over 5,700 children from 62 countries and conducted more than 100 medical missions to countries around the world.
Quality pediatric heart care can be expensive and extremely difficult to access, leaving it out of reach of children from countries with no facilities or trained doctors. The cost of bringing a child to Israel for care is $15,000.
Growing the mission
Dr. Raucher Sternfeld is excited about the new Sylvan Adams Children’s Hospital and Save a Child’s Heart International Pediatric Cardiac Center that the organization is currently completing at the Wolfson Medical Center campus. The new seven-story building, which will have state-of-the-art facilities and technologies for pediatric heart care, will help Save a Child’s Heart scale its mission to reach more children.
“The completion of the Sylvan Adams Children’s Hospital and the Save a Child’s Heart International Pediatric Cardiac Center is a game-changer,” Dr. Raucher Sternfeld said.
In order to scale the mission and save as many lives as possible, Save a Child’s Heart works with a network of teams and supporters from around the world to support the organization and raise awareness.
Dedication to care
Dr. Raucher Sternfeld also manages Save a Child’s Heart’s free weekly pediatric cardiology clinic for Palestinian children. Since its founding in 1995, Save a Child’s Heart has treated more than 3,000 Palestinian children. They represent approximately half of Save a Child’s Heart’s patient population.
While the weekly clinic has been paused during the COVID-19 pandemic, Save a Child’s Heart has continued bringing children from the Palestinian Authority and Gaza to be treated at the Wolfson Medical Center on an ongoing basis. Each week, approximately 10 new children arrive and receive the care they need to survive.
Dr. Raucher Sternfeld is the head of the pediatric cardiology unit at Wolfson Medical Center and the head pediatric cardiologist of Save a Child’s Heart. She was born in Israel but completed her high school education in St. Louis, Missouri.
She returned to Israel to serve in the army and then attended medical school at Tel Aviv University. She trained in pediatrics and in pediatric cardiology at the Wolfson Medical Center. In 1999, she was certified with high honors by the Israeli Board of Pediatrics. Later, she completed a fellowship in pediatric cardiology and was certified by the Israeli Board of Pediatric Cardiology, again with high honors.