Mission Doctors Association

Each year, Mission Doctors Association recognizes and honors a Catholic Doctor whose work is a reflection of their faith, whether in their own community or around the world.
Learn more about the award here. Below are the past recipients of our Catholic Doctor of the Year Award.

2022: Dr. David Gaus, Milwaukee, WI


Dr. David Gaus is the founder and CEO of Andean Health and Development (AHD). AHD is an organization dedicated to providing quality, sustainable medical services in rural Ecuador while training Ecuadorian family physicians to become the healthcare leaders of tomorrow.

Dr. Gaus grew up in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and attended Notre Dame where he received an accounting degree in 1984. After a soul-searching conversation with then University President, Rev. Theodore Hesburgh, David traveled to Ecuador where he spent two years volunteering at an orphanage. There he witnessed the marginalization of a population who lacked access to even basic health services. He returned to the U.S. where, with the assistance of Fr. Hesburgh and the famous columnist Ann Landers, David re-enrolled at Notre Dame to complete his pre-med studies and then enrolled in Tulane Medical School.

In 1992, David earned his M.D. and Master’s in Public Health & Tropical Medicine from Tulane. Following a residency at the University of Wisconsin, he returned to Ecuador and soon discovered that rural hospital care was the country’s greatest need. In 1996, David and Fr. Hesburgh started AHD to provide self-sustaining, comprehensive health care to the rural poor. AHD trains 15 Ecuadorian family physicians annually. Gaus and his team are also involved in research, the writing of medical manuals, and the creation of the online journal, Practica Familiar Rural.

2021: Dr. Daniel O’Connell, Manhattan Beach, CA

Nominated by the Young Catholic Professionals (YCP) of Orange County, Dr. Daniel O’Connell is a board-certifiedneurologist and pain management fellow. He studied medicine at Loyola University Chicago and later earned a Master of Public Health at Brown University. He completed his internship in internal medicine at New York Medical College and his residency in neurology and fellowship in neuro-oncology at the University of California. Dr. O’Connell also serves as a medical officer of the United States Air Force Reserves, which called him to respond to the Covid crisis in New York City in 2020.

For his service Captain Daniel O’Connell, MD was awarded the Air Force, Achievement Medal. In the commendation, it was noted that; “Captain Daniel E. O’Connell distinguished himself by outstanding achievement while assigned to the 64th Expeditionary Group, First Air Expeditionary Task Force, Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey as a medical provider.” It further notes that he deployed with less than 24 hours’ notice in support of the COVID pandemic in New York and that; “His seamless integration into the hospital workforce immediately enabled the mitigation of patient suffering during an unprecedented high operational tempo.”  

2020: All Catholic Healthcare Workers

In 2020, healthcare workers were on the frontline, risking their lives to care for patients with the coronavirus.  We heard the stories of sacrifice, generosity, and brotherly love by healthcare workers– doctors, nurses, respiratory therapists, and support staff.  In honor of their dedicated faith-filled service, Mission Doctors recognized all Catholic healthcare workers with the 2020 Catholic Doctor of the Year Award at the Archdiocese of Los Angeles Healthcare Professionals Annual Mass.

2019: Sr. Deirdre Byrne, MD, Washington, DC

Sister Deirdre Byrne, MD, is an active missionary sister and a board-certified family practitioner and general surgeon. She retired with the rank of Colonel from the United States Army in 2009 after 29 years of service in the military. Sister Deirdre’s other charitable medical/surgical service includes hands-on ministry in the rubble of the twin towers following the terrorist attack on 9-11, and annual medical missions in Kenya, Haiti, and Sudan. She currently acts as the clinic director of the Spanish Catholic Center, serving the uninsured in the Washington Diocese.

2018: Dr. Tom Catena, Amsterdam, NY 

Dr. Tom Catena is an Aurora Prize Laureate and Catholic international missionary doctor who has served since 2017 as the only permanent doctor at Mother of Mercy Hospital caring for 750,000 people in Sudan’s war-torn Nuba Mountains. Dr. Catena is inspired by the faith and work of Saint Mother Teresa of Calcutta and St. Francis of Assisi and says that it is their example that motivates him while working 7 days a week. He has been featured in the documentary “The Heart of Nuba” and begins each day with prayer.

2017: Dr. Gary Pontrelli, Ventura, CA

After retiring from the Ventura County Medical Center, where he worked as a pathologist for over 30 years, Dr. Gary Pontrelli began volunteering with Ignatians West, formerly the Ignatian Volunteer Corps, Los Angeles. In this position, he informs and guides patients in the Advance Directive procedure through the Spiritual Care Department at St. John’s Regional Medical Center. He has been described as “always seeking to deepen his faith while staying active in the medical field.”

2016: Dr. Gina Elizabeth Lawson, Smithfield, MO

Dr. Gina Lawson, a hospitalist with more than 25 years’ experience in hospital care in St. Luke’s Health System (Missouri), received the award for her caring commitment to the sick, the homeless and the discouraged. She has gone on multiple international mission trips, has been distinguished for the way she focuses on families and patients with her full attention, and is noted for praying with patients she cares for.

2015: Fr. John McCarthy, MD, De Pere, WI and Fr. Maurice Schroeder, OMI, MD

Father John “Jack” McCarthy, OPraem, MD and Father Maurice Schroeder, OMI, MD have worked for more than 30 years in the Peruvian Amazon caring for the body and soul of more than 20,000 individuals in 100 villages up and down the Napo River from Santa Clotilde Mission. Fr. McCarthy, MD is a Norbertine Priest and member of St. Norbert Abby in De Pere, WI. Fr. Schroeder, MD is a Missionary Oblate of Mary Immaculate of St. Peter’s and St Paul’s Provinces in Canada. Together, these two priest physicians have been a source of care and hope.

2014: Dr. Jorge Carreon, Lynwood, CA

Over the last 35 years, Dr. Carreon has delivered more than 18,000 children, and he notes “Many of these babies have become doctors, lawyers, nurses and many others with very successful stories. This makes me very happy and satisfied with my career.” Dr. Carreon shared that “God has always been there, he is always been part of my life. When I face everyday challenges, it is my faith that all things will work out the way it is supposed to, even when it is frustrating, heartbreaking, sad and painful. Faith, hope compassion, tolerance and knowledge are the key for me and my practice.”

2013: Dr. Eli Ayoub, Lynwood, CA

For the past 30 years, Dr. Ayoub has provided medical missionary service in the Middle East with a mobile medical clinic in Lebanon, Syria and Jordan. He also organizes annual health fairs for three churches in Los Angeles and Orange County from his medical practice in Lynwood, California. Dr. Ayoub shares that his faith has “manifested itself into increase sensitivity to the beliefs of others and a respect for patients’ viewpoints.”

2012: Dr. Andres Enriquez, El Paso, TX

Dr. Enriquez practices family medicine at Franklin Medical Center in El Paso. He was recognized “for the faith-filled care he provides to his local community,” offering his time free of charge and often making house calls, and also for his work caring for the poor in Honduras and the border areas of Texas and Mexico.

2011: Dr. Peter J. Daly, St. Paul, MN

Dr. Daly was recognized for his volunteer work in orthopedic surgery for St. Mary’s Free Health Center in Minneapolis / St. Paul, his work at St. Lucia West Indies, Haiti, and the founding of the Holy Family Surgery Center in Honduras. Dr. Daly has organized numerous medical missions to Honduras, including organizing brigades with urologists, ENT, and general surgeons.

2010: Dr. Richard Paat, Perrysburg, OH

Dr. Paat was recognized for his commitment to his own community in the form of providing free medical care to the uninsured and homeless of the Toledo area, volunteering at a free inner city medical center, and running a mobile migrant worker clinic during the summers. In January 2010, he established a free medical clinic in Perrysburg Heights. He has been described as someone who “puts others first, extending the healing arm of Christ as a vessel. He walks daily deep in his Catholic faith.”

2009: Dr. Michael Fitzgerald, Liverpool, NY

Dr. Fitzgerald was recognized for his commitment to his community through volunteering with the Poverello Clinic, a free clinic for the uninsured. He serves each year as a volunteer physician, accompanying the sick and disabled on a pilgrimage to the Shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes in France. His service has also taken him to the Sacre Coeur Hospital in Milot, Haiti, and to work with Haitian physicians who come to the US for special training.

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