• 18 Jan 20

Jan 18 - “Tom Dooley” © artwork by Julie Lonneman. Happy Memorial Day Tom!

Tom Dooley's parents hoped that he would become a concert pianist and sent him to the Julliard School of Music as a teenager. This was not the path that Tom wanted for himself, however. He felt called to become a doctor.

After receiving his M.D. degree from the University of St. Louis, Tom volunteered as a medical intern on the U.S.S. Montague, which transported refugees from North Vietnam to South Vietnam. He later worked in the refugee camps of Haiphong and knew that he wanted to continue working to improve medical care in Southeast Asia.

In 1958, Tom established MEDICO, the Medical International Cooperation Organization, dedicated to bringing medical care to war-torn nations. Tom began a number of hospitals in Asia and would oversee the training of native doctors. MEDICO, which later merged with CARE, Inc., raised millions of dollars for their medical work.

Tom wrote three books during his life and donated the money to MEDICO. He also gave many lectures and raised more money for the organization. By the end of the 1950's, however, Tom suffered from a rapidly spreading cancer. Determined to work for MEDICO as long as he could, he continued to give lectures and raise money while sick. The cancer soon spread throughout his body, and Tom died on January 18, 1961. After his death, the U.S. Congress struck a medal that recognizes the work of the Catholic missionary doctor.

"I am only one, but I am one. I cannot do everything, but I can do something. What I can do, I ought to do, and what I ought to do, by the grace of God, I will do."
—Dr. Tom Dooley