Volunteer Spotlight: Dr. Maria Sanchez and Jonathan Konel
LIG Global volunteers consider each other to be family; however, sometimes, our volunteers are not only family by association to LIG Global, but also by blood. In the month of October, LIG Global wants to highlight the dedication of mother-son duo, Dr. Maria Sanchez and Jonathan Konel, as long-term volunteers with LIG Global who have truly touched the lives of countless families worldwide.
Dr. Sanchez, originally from Piñas, Ecuador, received her medical degree from the University of Guayaquil in Ecuador and went on to complete her residency in pediatrics and neonatology at Westchester Medical Center in New York. Since 1988, Dr. Sanchez has been providing care to patients at Saint Barnabas Medical Center and has cultivated a community of support and dedication to her career with her work family. In her free time, Dr. Sanchez enjoys walking, swimming, fishing, and watching telenovelas. Her son, Jonathan Konel, graduated from Johns Hopkins University, majoring in Psychological and Brain Studies while on the pre-medical track. He is currently a fourth year medical student at Wayne State University in Detroit, Illinois. As his time at medical school comes to a close, he is applying for residencies in obstetrics and gynecology. In his free time, Jonathan is an avid runner and a cappella singer. It is clear that the two are passionate about providing medical care, which is what makes them such valuable members of our team.
Dr. Sanchez was originally invited to join one of LIG’s service trips to Cajamarca, Peru by current CMO, Dr. Ernani Sadural. Dr. Sanchez was ecstatic about the opportunity to get involved with LIG Global and wanted to bring her son, who was a pre-med student at the time, to gain first-hand experience with medical service. The two attended their first mission to Cajamarca, Peru in 2016; Dr. Sanchez worked with the department of neonatology and Jonathan served as a Spanish-English translator during 4 cardiothoracic open-heart surgeries. Dr. Sanchez continued to attend LIG Global service trips, returning to Cajamarca the following year and also lending her service with LIG Global in the Dominican Republic.
When asked about their experiences volunteering with LIG Global, Dr. Sanchez and Jonathan reflected on LIG’s mission. They described the strong connections built with and between the LIG Global team and the teams in Cajamarca and the Dominican Republic as being an incredible aspect of their trips that helped both groups flourish. Dr. Sanchez and Jonathan remarked:
“Education during these mission trips is a two-way street, and we really enjoyed every minute of it. The experience of sharing a common goal among all the various teams from OBGYN, cardiothoracic, neonatology, general surgery and all working towards empowering the local community was spectacular.”
These meaningful friendships, educational moments, and life-saving procedures would not be possible without volunteers as dedicated and passionate to their work as Dr. Sanchez and Jonathan; they are truly a testament to LIG’s mission. We thank Dr. Sanchez and Jonathan for their years of service and look forward to welcoming them on future missions!