Like I said, I think he’s an amazing guy. It’s not because he’s been a good family doctor for me and my family for the last 20 or so years, although he has been that. He’s been a small town GP for most of his career. That’s rare these days, but that’s also not why I want more people to notice him.
A few years ago he started a foundation called Basic Health International whose mission is to provide basic health care to remote communities around the world. He doesn’t just talk about it or try and get people to donate to the cause. He does actual doctor-stuff in places like Tibet, Ethiopia, and Peru.
He’s quite an unassuming man, but when he tells you you should get more exercise, it’s hard to ignore. You see, this past October he attained a rare distinction: he became a member of “The Seven Summits Club: at least, he has made it to the top of the highest peak on each of the seven continents. If I know this man at all, whether or not he ever makes on the ‘official list’ is not as important as the ability to parlay this into ways to help more people.
Two years ago he did Everest (the highest). I saw him as a patient a few weeks after he’d returned. His face was still quite burned and the tips of his fingers were still black with frostbite. He’d been the expedition doctor on that trip (he’s a high-altitude specialist), and happened to be the only physician on that part of the mountain at the time. He ended up helping out a few other expeditions along the way, at least one of which suffered fatalities.
This year was Carstensz (probably the trickiest). That’s after trying, and failing last year. I tried to get him to tell me some stories (forgive me, Dr. Hanlon) but any time I try he gets very uncomfortable, mumbles a few words and then changes the subject (usually to the plight of some of the people he’s met on his adventures). I did manage to get out of him that he ended up caught in a mudslide and spent 3 weeks in the jungle with some native headhunters.
What’s next? Today, he left on a 2 month ski trip. Sounds cushy, huh? Well, this one is to the South Pole.
Any publicity he gets from this goes to try and bring more attention to his Foundation. So, if you are so moved, take a look. Maybe even make a donation.
Universal healthcare is good, right?
For everyone, right?
Even the people who live at the tops of the world.
p.s. He’s Irish. So I figure there’s a greater than zero chance he’s off to the Antarctic after Shackleton’s scotch ;>
all photos (C) William Hanlon