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Close-up of Geoff Ibbotson in a black suit, white collared shirt and patterned tie
Geoff Ibbotson.

Dr. Geoff Ibbotson

“This is what leadership means to me – serving people”

Fave U of T moment
Sharing experiences with my classmates. I particularly remember the final Formal Grad, writing the board exams together, announcements before anatomy class, mobilizing people to clean up the lecture halls when the cleaning staff went on strike, and mourning the loss of a classmate at a memorial service. Going through these experiences together made the moments memorable.

Since graduation
Working as a surgeon internationally in humanitarian aid and disaster relief has been extremely rewarding. Our team – Samaritan’s Purse Disaster Assistance Response Team – was one of the first responders to the west coast of Indonesia following the 2004 tsunami. The area was among the hardest hit by the disaster, and was accessible only by helicopter. Ten months later, my wife and I were sent as first-responders to help the communities hit by the earthquake in Pakistani Kashmir. It was a privilege being able to serve these people in need.

A meaningful event
While working at the Red Cross War Hospital in northwest Kenya, where we treated the war wounded from southern Sudan, I met a nine-year-old boy named Marc who had been tending a herd of cattle with his family when bandits attacked. Two people were killed at the scene and three people, including Marc, were evacuated to our hospital. I have treated many people with gunshot wounds, but Marc’s case greatly disturbed me. As he lay on a stretcher in blood-soaked bandages, his fear was quite evident. Here before me was a nine-year-old boy who had left home that morning with his family for an ordinary day of tending his cattle, and his whole world had abruptly changed. He had been shot four times by an AK-47 assault rifle while trying to run away from his attackers. Who would shoot a small child as he is trying to run away? Over the next two months, Marc’s wounds healed, and I learned a lot from him. Despite everything he had gone through, he was thankful for what he had. He always had a smile on his face – and that made me smile, too.

What has winning the Gordon Cressy Award meant to you?
It has inspired me to find more ways to serve the communities I’m involved in, whether in Canada or internationally. This is what leadership means to me – serving people.

See full list of Cressy Award winner interviews

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