UD alumnus spreads faith through medical service abroad

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Linda Smith, News Editor

Last Wednesday, University of Dallas alumnus and University of Texas Southwestern Medical School graduate Dr. Thomas Heyne returned to his undergraduate alma mater to give a presentation on his work as a missionary doctor throughout the world. Beginning with a prayer often favored by Mother Teresa (whom he adoringly refers to as “Mamma T”), Heyne, speaking in a classroom where he was a student six years ago, launched into a riveting account of the medical work he has done around the world since his time at UD.

According to Heyne’s younger brother Jon Paul, “Tommy” is the sixth of eight kids; all five boys attended Cistercian Preparatory School, and all eight siblings attended UD. His parents worked at Children’s Medical Center in Dallas, his father as a pediatrician and his mother as a physician assistant, while the family lived in Southlake, Texas.

Heyne’s Rome semester whetted his appetite for more travel abroad. He visited Honduras in March, April and August 2011, Uganda and Ethiopia from January to February 2012, and India and China in May 2012.

Heyne showed many pictures of what he lovingly called “beautiful children,” including a photo of children in Uganda and Ethiopia playing, and another of a boy from Honduras using sidewalk chalk to draw a picture of himself playing soccer. Heyne also told a story of an Indian man lending him a camera after his own was stolen.

Dr. Heyne brings cheer to an orphanage and home for the sick and dying run by the Missionaries of Charity in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.

Through all of this, the audience almost forgot that these people were suffering from starvation, AIDS and the like, because that’s not what Heyne was focusing on; these beautiful children have all had an impact on his life, which, he said, is something he can not easily forget.

Interspersed with the photos were hard-hitting informational graphs. Heyne showed a list from the World Health Organization of the top 10 causes of death for children under five years old. Half of the diseases are curable, which means that outreach and medicinal pioneering on the part of doctors like Heyne is crucial. Another graphic dealt with the “10/40 window,” an area between 10 and 40 degrees north of the equator in which almost no Christian outreach exists, much less is welcome. Heyne has visited two countries included in this window: India and China. In fact, though, he said very little about his missionary work in China; even in correspondence with friends there, he has to speak in code for fear of persecution.

For Heyne, showing these photos was not simply meant to raise awareness; it was meant to spur students into action. If one person in the audience was swayed to do missionary work after his lecture, he would have done a good job, Heyne said.

Heyne emphasized that the needs of these people are not simply physical; there is also a spiritual void that he sought to fill in his work abroad. In an alumni article featured on the university website, Heyne described his outreach through missionary work as “a beautiful ministry,” and explained that “UD gave me a very solid science background and a very strong humanities background. I realize that the needs of those in need are deeper than the physical.” Heyne has asked all of his patients if he could pray for them, with only one man refusing, although he eventually came around. Heyne’s ministry goes beyond his time abroad; in keeping with this expansive sense of ministry, he gives us a list of tips for evangelization, starting at home and working one’s way up to mission work abroad.

Heyne said he feels he owes much to UD, including his “friends across the U.S., education, faith, heart for travel, love of rugby, broken Italian and nine nieces and nephews.”

He stressed that the most important thing of all was “a faith seeking understanding – an inquisitive mind that seeks to go to the primary data, to examine again for oneself. Also, great friends who inspire me, and with whom I continue to make connections across the world.”

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