Timothy J. Kietzman, MD, was nominated by the Wheaton Eye Clinic to receive this year's Outstanding Humanitarian Service Award.
Dr. Kietzman fell in love with ophthalmology as a child while observing his father, Benjamin Kietzman, MD, who served as a missionary ophthalmologist in northern Nigeria. After Dr. Timothy Kietzman completed his training and military service commitment, he joined a large group practice in Georgia as a comprehensive ophthalmologist. He wanted more out of life, however, so Dr. Kietzman began seriously contemplating the possibility of also serving as a missionary ophthalmologist overseas. Through Interserve USA, he became aware of the desperate need for an ophthalmologist in Gilgit, a city in the northern mountains of Pakistan. One of Dr. Kietzman's former classmates, a family practice doctor, had pioneered the Gilgit Eye Hospital project five years earlier. To provide needed specialty expertise, Dr. Kietzman visited the project, and then in March 2000 moved his family to Pakistan.
Dr. Kietzman brought western standard eye care to Gilgit. He treated a wide variety of eye ailments and introduced state-of-the art cataract surgery, glaucoma procedures and diabetic eye care. He was instrumental in raising funds to purchase needed equipment for the Gilgit Eye Hospital, including two phaco machines, a YAG laser and other needed equipment. His desire to prevent the many injuries he was treating led him to produce a radio drama designed to raise public awareness about safety issues. He documented a 20 percent decline in open globe injuries in his last four years in Gilgit, which he partially attributes to his public health efforts.
Due to the diligence and commitment of Dr. Kietzman, the Gilgit Eye Hospital set the standard for quality eye care that is still the primary source in Northern Pakistan within 20 hours of driving in any direction. The clinic saw more than 9,000 patients in 2010 and performed 14 to 16 intraocular surgeries per week. Dr. Kietzman performed all of these services free of charge, with the clinic only charging a minimal amount on a sliding scale to maintain its sustainability.
Dr. Kietzman not only provided excellent eye care but actively taught both Pakistani ophthalmologists and ophthalmic technicians. He spent much of his last five years in Gilgit training a Pakistani ophthalmologist, as well as five ophthalmic physician assistants, how to diagnose basic eye problems and triage as necessary. Dr. Kietzman's hope is that education will create a more sustained health care resource for the rural Pakistani people.
During his tenure, Dr. Kietzman, his wife and four sons maintained strong passion for the Pakistani people despite many obstacles. First, Dr. Kietzman learned to speak Urdu as well as understand the rudiments of several local languages. Then there were the usual difficulties such as a non-western dress code, unreliable water, electricity, heating and medical supplies as well as the more unusual, like several robberies, personal health problems, floods, earthquakes, political and sectarian unrest and a terrorist attack on their children's boarding school. Especially tough on Dr. Kietzman were prolonged separations from his family after the attack, as a result of which his family had been evacuated.
Dr. Kietzman's reputation in Pakistan and with those who have visited the Gilgit Eye Hospital is second to none. He is known throughout the country as an ophthalmologist who provided loving, caring and excellent patient care. Gilgit Eye Hospital is known by the same high standard, thanks to his medical care.
In recognition of the sacrifice that he and his family have made to provide eye care for people in a very needy area of the world, the Academy is priviledged to honor Dr. Kietzman with this year's Outstanding Humanitarian Service Award.