A Champion for Children
Jessi Solomon Sanders, MD, has an affinity for children with chronic illnesses and special needs that began in childhood and helped shape her future as a resident physician in neurodevelopmental disabilities at Boston Children’s Hospital.
She grew up in Cleveland, Ohio, and accompanied her mother, an advocate for children with behavioral disorders, to social events where she would meet and play guitar with children with myriad disabilities. Each summer she attended an overnight camp that included children with disabilities, and she was drawn to fellow cabinmates who had special needs.
“Over time I developed a talent for understanding and communicating with individuals of all ages with developmental disabilities and a passion for helping them,” Sanders said.
During her freshman year at Vanderbilt’s Peabody College, where she majored in special education and was a Vanderbilt Ingram Scholar, she volunteered to work with children with disabilities and was paired through the Best Buddies program with “an inspiring and tenacious young lady” with intellectual disabilities.
“Christy and I have been Best Buddies and best friends for the past 12 years,” Sanders said, adding that the two enjoy one of her favorite hobbies together: tandem bike riding.
When Sanders matriculated to Vanderbilt University School of Medicine in 2010 as a Canby Robinson Scholar, she founded Best Buddies VandyMed, the first-ever medical school chapter of Best Buddies, and calls it her “proudest accomplishment.”
“I am even more proud to know that it is still going strong. When I visited Nashville this winter, I had the privilege of attending the Best Buddies VandyMed holiday party as an alumna with Christy. That was an incredible experience, seeing the chapter thriving long after I had left.”
Sanders’ passion for children with disabilities has taken her around the world. In Nepal she volunteered at Community Based Rehabilitation, a childcare center for children with disabilities. In Ghana she volunteered at the Autism Awareness Care and Training Center and helped facilitate the creation of the first Best Buddies chapter there.
“Hearing about their struggles and desires for specialized health care helped confirm my desire to become a physician serving this underserved population,” she said. “I wanted to positively impact my patients and families with hope and guidance toward therapies that could enhance their child’s life.”
In Boston she is on the board of directors of Waypoint Adventure, a nonprofit organization that provides opportunities for individuals of all abilities to experience outdoor adventures that range from hiking to rock climbing.
Sanders met her husband, Mike Sanders, during her first year of residency. They share a love of tandem biking, even though he is 6’5” and she is 5’2”. Last year, they rode their tandem bike from Geneva to Zurich. The couple married in July. Naturally, her Best Buddy, Christy, was by her side.