A Look at a Leader: Dr. Chuck Dietzen
Given his unique experience with less-than-fortunate children, it’s not surprising Dr. Dietzen decided to focus his pediatric practice on severely ill and injured kids.
Charles J. (Chuck) Dietzen, MD, the medical director for pediatric rehabilitation at Riley Hospital for Children at Indiana University Health, has been caring for youngsters since he was a child himself: While growing up in north central Indiana, he shared his home with foster children. “From the time I was seven years old until I turned 27, my family cared for foster kids,” recalls Dr. Dietzen. “In all, there were about one hundred and fifty kids, some less than twenty-four hours old. My siblings and I got to be pretty good babysitters.”
Given his unique experience with less-than-fortunate children, it’s not surprising Dr. Dietzen decided to focus his pediatric practice on severely ill and injured kids. “The bad stuff you hear on the news — those kids come to us,” he says. “Anything from bad car accidents to house fires, brain and spinal cord cancers or infections and amputations.”
In 1997, Dr. Dietzen’s passion for helping children inspired him to create Timmy Global Health, a non-profit that “empowers students and volunteers to tackle today’s most pressing global health challenges.” Timmy Global Health now supports 36 communities in the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Guatemala, and Nigeria. It’s named after Dr. Dietzen’s brother, who died in infancy.
Dr. Dietzen says his most cherished memory of working with Timmy Global Health was meeting Mother Teresa in 1997: “I went to India that March with the Missionaries of Charity Nuns and other members of their medical team. Mother Teresa died September of that year,” he recalls. “There were no red carpets or trumpets when we met. Mother just sat next to me and said, ‘Don’t ever abandon the patients, always give them hope even if you can’t cure them.’ I bowed down and kissed her hands. It was truly the highlight of my life.”
One way Dr. Dietzen strives to follow Mother Teresa’s advice is by pairing his passion for athletics with his pediatric practice. “I can be a coach and a doctor at the same time,” he says. “I’ve been very involved in sports. I was the first quarterback for the University of Alabama, Birmingham, and in my thirties and forties I played football and rugby at a high level. I got picked up by the Brisbane Bulldogs in Australia.” (The Bulldogs are an American football team.)
“These days, though, I don’t have much free time,” says Dr. Dietzen, who estimates he works at least 50 hours a week. “But when I do need to unwind I love to hike and fish.” Still, Dr. Dietzen doesn’t seem to mind his long days treating children. “The kids always help you put things in perspective,” he says.