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Eightysomething "neonatology superhero" still at it

archive Sunshine pic

Several years ago, as I've recalled here before, I was assigned a story for Stanford Medicine magazine on the evolution and importance of children's hospitals - and there was one interview I was particularly excited to score. It was with neonatologist Philip Sunshine, MD, a physician I wanted to talk with in part because of how long he had been here and how much he knew about children's hospitals and the field of pediatrics, and in part because he had what I considered one of the most amazing last names for a doctor ever. (Dr. Sunshine? How cool is that?)

Fast forward to earlier this week, when I came across a Healthier, Happier Lives blog post noting that Sunshine has been caring for preemies for more than five decades now. Has been - as in, still is! At the age of 84, he's still at it, as I learned from the piece:

Sunshine started at Stanford in the 1950s, back when the Stanford University School of Medicine was located in San Francisco. What this gentle giant has accomplished since then not only forms a narrative of modern-day neonatal care, but also provides a legacy for modern medicine to follow.

Sunshine is the discoverer of a rare and deadly metabolic disorder, a member of the team that first implemented mechanical ventilation at Stanford, and originator of a scoring system for selecting infants needing assisted ventilation. He has authored several groundbreaking research papers and has received countless awards, including the prestigious Virginia Apgar Award in Perinatal Pediatrics from the American Academy of Pediatrics. The list of his accomplishments continues — all very deep, all very scientific and all very lifesaving.

Burned out from glory? Nope. This pioneer is still excited to come to work — even on days he isn’t on duty — to check in on his patients in the Packard Intermediate Care Nursery and keep in touch with colleagues.

Oh, and as for my interview with Sunshine back in 2006: He was knowledgeable, helpful (he plucked an out-of-print book on a Canadian hospital from his bookshelf and let me take and read it for background), easy to talk to, and clearly a kind man. Just what you would expect with someone in his line of work. Or with that last name.

Previously: A pioneer of modern-day neonatology and Neonatologist celebrates 50 years of preemie care
Photo courtesy of Lucile Packard Children's Hospital

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