Mission Doctors Association

Catholic Doctor of the Year

We are accepting applications for the 2024 Catholic Doctor of the Year!

To submit the name of a qualified doctor(s) for consideration fill out an application form online. All forms are due by July 15, 2024, by mail or fax.

Today, Catholic doctors face many challenges as they strive to meet the needs of their patients in the context of their own faith and calling. Many go well beyond the role and responsibilities of their profession, offering care that truly reflects the love of God. For some this is obvious in their own practice, for others this takes the form of volunteering in their community or mission work that may be domestic or international. Their exemplary actions bear witness to the highest values of the Catholic doctor.

The annual award is given in recognition of the efforts of a doctor who has responded to Christ’s call to “Heal the Sick” as a member of our Catholic faith community and in doing so has made a World of Difference.

The award will be presented at the annual Archdiocese of Los Angeles Annual Mass Celebrating Catholic Healthcare Professionals.

Mission Doctors Association has chosen Dr. Mary Cathleen “Cathy” Schanzer for 2023.


Dr. Schanzer was first inspired to follow a call to missionary service in the third grade when she heard a Maryknoll priest speak about his mission work in Africa. In 1988, she went on her first medical mission trip to a Catholic Mission Hospital in Abak, Nigeria. She continued with annual mission trips to other African nations. In 2006, Dr. Schanzer and husband Tom Lewis, at the invitation of local Archbishop Joseph Ganda, established Southern Eye Clinic in Serabu, Sierra Leone.


Today, Southern Eye Clinic of Serabu is open year-round, providing diagnostic examinations, medicines, eyeglasses, and modern eye surgery free of charge to all patients. It is not uncommon for patients to walk several days to reach Serabu to receive this essential care. Each January and June, when Dr. Schanzer is in Serabu, it is usual to care for 100+ clinic patients and 30+ surgical patients per day. During the rest of the year, 64 employees keep the primary clinic and 10 satellite clinics in nearby villages running. Additionally, their work supports numerous community development projects including water wells, food programs, education scholarships, a computer center, sports, and cultural events.

Dr. Schanzer attended the University of Texas Medical School and completed her Ophthalmology residency at Baylor College of Medicine. During her residency, Cathy and Tom pursued adoption and ultimately adopted seven children.


Earlier this year, Dr. Schanzer was diagnosed with Glioblastoma (brain cancer), a diagnosis that is often terminal in less than two years. Dr. Schanzer had surgery to remove the primary tumor, followed by radiation therapy and continues with chemotherapy. Cathy and Tom feel grateful for their deep faith and the strong worldwide support of family and friends.

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