Eichelberger ’67 founded a nonprofit organization, Safe
Kids Worldwide, in 1987.
October 10, 2007:
- Martin Eichelberger ’67 Preventing
As a pediatric surgeon, Martin Eichelberger ’67 has made
a career operating on children with life-threatening injuries. He
also has been trying to put doctors like himself out of work.
Eichelberger directs the trauma and burn center at Children’s
National Medical Center in Washington, D.C., and he leads Safe Kids
Worldwide (www.safekids.org), a nonprofit he started in 1987 to
prevent accidental injuries to children. The organization grew out
of Eichelberger’s frustration as he built his hospital’s
“In spite of the fact that we had the best [medical] team
you could have ... kids were still dying,” says Eichelberger.
The solution, he realized, wasn’t better hospitals or doctors
— it was promoting safety and research-based public policy.
“That was a totally different paradigm for me,” says
the surgeon who is called “Dr. Ike” by his young patients.
“I’d spent all my career learning about hospitals. I
really didn’t know anything about politics.”
Safe Kids conducts research on childhood risks — from car
accidents to house fires — and promotes prevention methods.
The group also advocates for improved child-safety laws and regulations,
and distributes to families lifesaving devices such as car seats
and smoke alarms. Supported since its inception by Johnson &
Johnson, Safe Kids has grown into a coalition of hundreds of organizations
in 16 countries. In Safe Kids’ 20 years, the death rate from
injury among U.S. children has fallen 45 percent, saving nearly
40,000 kids from fatal car accidents, drowning, poisoning, and other
hazards. For society, there’s an economic benefit as well.
Every $1 spent on a bike helmet saves $31 in health-care costs,
according to a study conducted by Children’s Safety Network,
a federally funded research group.
“These are very simple, very low-tech, low-cost solutions
that are much better than the high-tech solutions that we try to
implement in the hospital — that don’t work,”
Eichelberger says. Without overinsulating children and hindering
their development, he adds, parents can be educated “that
there are things that they can do to make sure their kids will be
By Massie Ritsch ’98
Massie Ritsch ’98 is the communications director for
the Center for Responsive Politics in Washington, D.C.