Pictured: Dr. Stephen O’Connor with his son Stephen, traveling on his 5th medical service trip with Timmy to Guatemala in May 2017.
Dr. Stephen O’Connor was first introduced to Timmy in 2006 through his son, Thomas, who was a member of the Butler University Timmy Chapter at the time. He accompanied his son on a medical brigade to Quito, Ecuador and was hooked: “I fell in love with the opportunity.” Not only has his expertise from three decades as an emergency medicine practitioner allowed him to provide quality medical care to hundreds of patients through the five trips in which he has served, but as he reflected on these experiences, it is the opportunity to serve as a mentor and teacher for future health leaders that has perhaps had the most impact on him personally.
When a trip participant on his recent trip to Xela, Guatemala shared that her pre-professional advisor had told her she wasn’t qualified to be a physician, Dr. O’Connor objected and encouraged her to consider non-traditional, smaller medical schools. “Not every student will fit into the perfect mold that some medical schools in the U.S. want, but she clearly has heart, soul, intellect. I hope I broadened her horizons and negated an injudicious comment by her pre-professional advisor.” As Dr. O’Connor reflected on this interaction and numerous others like it over the years, he stated, “The thing that has made me gravitate toward Timmy is [the unique model]—students get involved and help run the trip, We [medical professionals] are a part of that but not the center focus. One of the best things is being around the students and being a teacher and a mentor.”
Not only has Dr. O’Connor left his mark on Timmy, but Timmy has left its mark on him and his family. Following in her brother and father’s footsteps, Dr. O’Connor’s daughter, Maggie, founded the Timmy chapter at Vanderbilt University and his youngest son, Stephen (pictured), started a Timmy chapter at his high school before going on to be part of the Butler University chapter. Both Thomas and Maggie are serving in the medical field, and Stephen is exploring a career in pediatric cardiology. Dr. O’Connor says that Timmy’s influence on his family has allowed him to instill a sense of volunteerism in his children and a foundation for the importance of giving to others. “I’ve always tried to make my children aware that the world they see in the U.S. isn’t the world that 9 out of 10 people live in. I work in a very busy emergency room and there is a perception of entitlement in the U.S. It can be draining on your medical soul, [Timmy] rejuvenates you.”
Named one of the 250 most positive doctors in America by Pfiser (alongside Dr. Chuck Dietzen), there is no doubt that Timmy patients and students will continue to benefit from Dr. O’Connor’s passion for people and medicine.