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Riverside spine doctor wins national award

Riverside spine doctor wins national award

(February 21, 2001)

Dr. Thomas T. Haider, founder of the Children's Spine Foundation and the namesake of the UCR/UCLA Thomas Haider Program in Biomedical Sciences at the University of California, Riverside, is one of six physicians in the nation selected for the American Medical Association 2001 "Pride in the Profession" Award.

The award will be given Sunday, March 4 at the AMA's National Leadership Conference in Washington D.C., said Dr. E. Ratcliffe Anderson, Jr., the group's executive vice president and chief executive officer. Anderson said the award goes to doctors "whose actions promote the art and science of medicine and the betterment of the public health."

A native of Afghanistan, Haider trained as a doctor in the United States. During his residency in Colorado, he organized and served on a volunteer surgical team to Pakistan to provide medical and spinal care for dozens of Afghan refugees. He sponsored and sent many more refugees to other countries for their war-related surgeries. Currently, he sponsors a children's hospital in Afghanistan, by paying for medication, food and the salaries of 40 physicians.

In 1994, Haider established the Children's Spine Foundation in Riverside to provide comprehensive spinal care for children without health insurance, up to and including surgery. Through CSF, he and his colleagues provide monthly free clinics for children and free training of school nurses at 818 schools in 56 school districts.

In addition to his private practice in orthopedic surgery, Haider is an assistant clinical professor at UCR, teaching human anatomy to top medical students; and the medical director of the Division of Spine Surgery at the Riverside County Regional Medical Center.

In 1997, Haider pledged all profits to UCR from his specialized "pedicle screw," a piece of hardware he designed for use in spinal surgeries. His gift is worth at least $5 million but possibly much more, depending on how often the pedicle screw is used by other surgeons. At the time of that gift, the UCR/UCLA Biomedical Sciences Program, an accelerated program for top medical student, was renamed for Dr. Haider.

Haider currently supervises the School Backpack Research Program, which will follow 1,000 students for 10 years to determine the effect, if any, heavy backpacks may have on spinal injuries and deformities of students. The American Board of Spine Surgery endorses this project.

Haider serves as Chairman of UCR's Biomedical Sciences Advisory Board to help enhance medical research and prepare new physicians for service to their communities. He is also a member of the UCR Foundation Board of Trustees.

"We are proud of Dr. Haider's affiliation with UCR and we congratulate him on this highly deserved honor," said UCR Chancellor Raymond L. Orbach. "We value him as an instructor and as a campus friend for all the same reasons his patients seek him out for treatment. He is at the top of his field in spine surgery, and is serving our community superbly and selflessly."

Haider is married to Salma and has two children, Jason and Monica.

The UCR/UCLA Thomas Haider Program in Biomedical Sciences offers top students the opportunity to complete a medical degree in seven years, rather than eight. It is offered jointly by the UCR Division of Biomedical Sciences and the UCLA School of Medicine. This shortened path to the M.D. degree is the only program of its kind in California.

The American Medical Association is the nation's leader in promoting professionalism in medicine and setting standards for medical education, practice, and ethics. The association publishes the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).

The University of California, Riverside ( is a doctoral research university, a living laboratory for groundbreaking exploration of issues critical to Inland Southern California, the state and communities around the world. Reflecting California's diverse culture, UCR's enrollment has exceeded 21,000 students. The campus opened a medical school in 2013 and has reached the heart of the Coachella Valley by way of the UCR Palm Desert Center. The campus has an annual statewide economic impact of more than $1 billion.

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