Growing up in a Kokomo, Indiana, family that cared for more than 150 foster children, Charles Dietzen learned early about compassion and living with zest. It led him to become a physician. And it’s taken him to the top of Mount Shasta, on an Arctic dog sled trip, and to professional wrestling rings as Dr. Doom.
He’s since rolled those into a single passion: a life of adventure and caring. This June it will take Dr. Chuck, as his pediatric patients call him, to a houseboat on the Amazon, where he’ll provide medical care during his travels. July will find him in Ecuador. And these are after his March medical missions to Honduras and Haiti.
His travels to six or seven countries a year are part of the nonprofit Timmy Foundation, which he founded in 1994 and named for a brother who died as an infant. The foundation provides for children’s needs around the world by serving as a clearinghouse for volunteers, medicine, food, educational resources, clothing, and other supplies. “We organize trips. We help volunteers find their mission,” Dietzen says. “I tell people we weren’t all born to be doctors, nurses, and therapists, but we were all born to be healers.”
Stateside, he’s equally committed to youngsters, in his medical work and his service as medical director at CHAMP Camp for medically fragile children. There, he challenges the “fragile” label by engaging children in vigorous outdoor activities. “I take kids with disabilities and give them arenas to display their abilities.”
His inspiration, he says, are the children themselves, whom Dietzen regards as heroes. “They are so incredibly wise. Medical school gave me knowledge. My patients make me wise.”