The Academy is privileged to honor Stephen T. Petty, MD, with the 2017 Outstanding Humanitarian Service Award. This award recognizes Dr. Petty for his longstanding commitment to care for the underserved.
The Colorado Society of Eye Physicians and Surgeons nominated Dr. Petty for dedicating his career to serving the world’s poorest and neediest patients. Over a 40-year span, he provided eye care to thousands of patients and helped to train numerous ophthalmologists from South America, Africa and Asia to bring sight-saving vitreoretinal surgery to areas where it did not previously exist.
Dr. Petty’s calling to such work started in his first year of medical school. During a project in Tijuana, Mexico, he crossed the border daily to work in a small children’s hospital. On a second mission trip, Dr. Petty worked on an eye project west of Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic, where more than 20,000 patients waited in line for days in desperate need of care. During that two-week period, the team performed more than 500 surgeries and distributed several thousand pairs of glasses. This experienced showed Dr. Petty how much work he could achieve in a short period of time with the proper team in place. Since 1979, he has participated in over 100 trips as a medical professional or vitreoretinal specialist.
Over the years, Dr. Petty has steadily broadened his focus beyond direct patient care to expand training for local physicians. This growing emphasis on sustainability ensures access to quality care long after a mission trip ends. Dr. Petty has taught in multiple countries, including Peru, Ecuador, China, Nigeria, Rwanda and Azerbaijan, where he received a government award for helping to train the first retina specialist in the nation.
In addition to participation on these mission trips, Dr. Petty has led fundraising efforts and collected more than $300,000 in donations to pay for much-needed medical supplies and equipment. He has also accompanied several residents and other physicians on their first international service trip. Numerous physicians credit Dr. Petty’s leadership and encouragement with helping them find a love of medical mission service.
Dr. Petty retired from private practice in 2016 to allow more time for international volunteer work.