TTUHSC El Paso Professor Emeritus Receives Inaugural APSA Surgical Humanitarian Award

Donald Meier, M.D., professor emeritus at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center El Paso (TTUHSC El Paso), has been awarded the first American Pediatric Surgical Association (APSA) Surgical Humanitarian Award.

The award, meant for surgeons who have dedicated a significant portion of their careers to humanitarian efforts, was given to Dr. Meier in recognition of his 17 years of missionary surgery work in Nigeria, followed by his years serving underserved populations in El Paso, Juárez and other areas of the world.

Donald Meier, M.D. (left), in May accepts the American Pediatric Surgical Association (APSA) Surgical Humanitarian Award from Ronald B. Hirschl, the immediate past president of the APSA.

Donald Meier, M.D. (left), accepts the American Pediatric Surgical Association (APSA) Surgical Humanitarian Award from Ronald B. Hirschl, the immediate past president of the APSA.

Dr. Meier came to El Paso in 2003 at a time when there was no pediatric surgeon in the city, he said. For almost three years, he was the only pediatric surgeon on call in the West Texas area.

“I saw the great need in El Paso,” Dr. Meier said. “As I toured the city, I saw it was truly an unserved pediatric surgical area. I went back to my wife and told her, ‘I think God is calling us to El Paso.’”

Dr. Meier became a full-time professor in TTUHSC El Paso’s department of surgery in 2005 and became a professor emeritus in 2015 with plans to continue his international humanitarian work. However, his humanitarian work unfortunately came to a stop after he suffered a cerebral hemorrhage shortly after a humanitarian trip to Cameroon in 2016.

Donald Meier, M.D. (left), speaks with a medical resident (right) and patients in a hospital in Ethiopia in this undated photo. (Photo courtesy of Donald Meier)

Donald Meier, M.D. (left), speaks with a medical resident (right) and patients in a hospital in Ethiopia in this undated photo. (Photo courtesy of Donald Meier)

Dr. Meier said his focus while practicing humanitarian surgeries was always on educating surgeons around the world. He has completed short-term teaching trips to areas of surgical need, such as Kosovo, Albania, Afghanistan, Haiti, Ethiopia, Uganda and Mongolia, among others. He is an honorary professor of pediatric surgery at Black Lion Hospital in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

“My emphasis has always been on not only practicing high-quality surgery, but teaching high-quality surgery,” he said.

Tamara Fitzgerald, M.D., Ph.D., and Doruk Ozgediz, M.D., M.Sc., wrote an introduction about Dr. Meier for the award ceremony in Boston, Mass. They wrote, “Dr. Meier remains an icon in global surgery and pediatric surgery. He is a man of faith and has been a role model and mentor for generations of doctors and surgeons.”

Their introduction goes on to say, “He exemplifies the highest ideals of humanitarianism to which we all strive: love for humanity, passion for service, empathy and a drive to alleviate the suffering for those in greatest need, and a lifelong commitment to tackle local and global inequities. His expertise, integrity and unwavering focus on the needs of clinicians and communities in low-income settings are a true inspiration. He has lobbied, cajoled and catalyzed interest in voluntarism globally – and he has done it with a witty sense of humor and zest for life. He is the rare surgeon whose career has established sustainable institutions both at home and abroad to reduce health disparities.”

Dr. Meier currently lives in Dallas with his wife of 50 years, Patsy. Patsy Meier worked as an operating room nurse with Dr. Meier during their years in Nigeria.