Sam Percy, MD, Awarded ASA Humanitarian Service Award

Left to right: Michael Lipnick, MD, Sam Percy, MD and colleague at Navajo Nation

Congratulations to Sam Percy, MD, Children's Hospital Colorado Pediatric Anesthesia Fellow and former UCSF Health Equity Action and Leadership (HEAL) Initiative Fellow, on his well-deserved Humanitarian Service Award from the American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA)! The award “recognizes one anesthesiology trainee who, during the course of his or her medical training, has made a significant contribution to global anesthesia care through organized humanitarian outreach activities, in the US or abroad.”  Dr. Percy is the personification of this award.

He was born on the Navajo Native American Reservation in the rural US. Throughout his upbringing and his education, Dr. Percy has constantly sought training and experiences to cultivate his interest in public health, and a first-hand understanding of the communities which he seeks to serve. While in medical school, Dr. Percy completed an extraordinary “Rural Track,” focusing on underserved populations. During that time, Dr. Percy helped lead the student homeless clinic and also completed multiple education and research projects in Malawi, South Africa and Chile. 

While in residency at the University of Washington (UW), Dr. Percy was nominated as the chief resident for his program and completed the Global Health Certificate program. Dr. Percy is currently a Pediatric Anesthesia Fellow at Children’s Hospital Colorado, having completed his UCSF Health Equity Action and Leadership (HEAL) Initiative Fellowship in July of 2021. He was a trailblazer as the HEAL program’s first anesthesia fellow. Through this immersive 2-year fellowship, Dr. Percy split his time between providing anesthesia and critical care on the Navajo Nation in the rural US and living in rural Malawi to provide and teach anesthesia. 

Dr. Percy’s fellowship coincided with the COVID-19 pandemic which impacted the Navajo Nation (his fellowship site) harder than any other area in the United States. As one of only a handful of anesthesiologists on the reservation, Dr. Percy extended his time at Navajo Nation to help support COVID-19 response. Not only did Dr. Percy provide critical care and airway management for countless patients, but he was also heavily involved in leading protocol development, hospital preparation and efforts to bring in external support.  

During his fellowship, Dr. Percy was engaged with numerous other global health projects including leading a project to increase access to educational references and training materials for providers with limited Internet. This is unfortunately a challenge on Navajo Nation as well as in multiple low and middle-income countries like Malawi. He helped create wireless access points (“Anesthesia Classroom in a Box”) installed in anesthesia classrooms and hospitals in multiple settings, that provide free and fast access to educational content including NYSORA, WFSA Anesthesia Tutorial of the Week and OpenAnesthesia. Dr. Percy taught himself how to program the devices and coordinated multiple stakeholders involved in the project.  

Dr. Percy is among a relatively small number of individuals who are committing their careers to addressing disparities in perioperative care, a neglected area of global health, and we can think of no one more deserving of the ASA’s Humanitarian Service Award.