Dr. Benjamin Warf thought the prospects were poor that Ugandan children with hydrocephalus, an excess of water on the brain, could be successfully treated by implanting a drainage tube. Families he cared for at a Mbale hospital had limited access to health care. A blockage in the tube, called a shunt, could be disastrous.
In the early 2000s, Warf devised an alternative that reduced the number of infants who needed brain shunts by about two-thirds. It became the standard of care at Boston Children’s Hospital, where he directs the Neonatal and Congenital Anomaly Neurosurgery Program. Now Warf is unraveling the causes of hydrocephalus, work he hopes could lead to prevention.