The role of a doctor is not as glamorous as it might appear on the surface. Health professionals work long hours and they are forced to deal first hand with the heartbreak that can occur when a family member dies or is severely injured. While there are many challenges associated with working as a doctor, a handful of healthcare providers have not only embraced their roles, they have gone above and beyond to help their patients in any way possible.
We hunted down some of the most incredible doctors in the world. From humble beginnings that led to doctors giving back to their community, to healthcare providers who simply wanted to do the right thing, these doctors are amazing physicians and even more amazing human beings.
Dr. Alfredo Quinones-Hinojosa
Dr. Quinones-Hinojosa made his way to the United States after fleeing his impoverished Mexican village and hopping a fence into California. He eventually gained U.S. citizenship, attended Harvard Medical School, and worked his way to a job one of the top medical facilities in the world—Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore. He has always been a hard worker who spent his early day and started working in his father’s gas station in Mexico when he was just five years old. He is now a world-renowned neurosurgeon who has saved thousands of lives.
Dr. Larry Klomps
At 12 years old, Larry Klomp was already displaying the type of character that would make him a great doctor in his later years. Larry and his brother Vincent would offer to mow neighbors yards with their push lawnmower for pay. They were not looking for extra spending cash but rather money they could give to their poor mother so she could buy groceries. His mother was disabled because of Larry’s abusive father. Larry kept his head down, studied hard, and at 23 years old became a doctor at Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center.
Dr. Thembinkosi Motlhabane
Theodora Motlhabane spent nearly two decades selling fruit from a tiny table near the entrance of Zithulele Hospital in Oliver Tambo District, located in South Africa’s Eastern Cape province. She hoped beyond all odds that her son, Thembinkosi Motlhabane, would one day be given the opportunity to wear the white coat and stethoscope she saw doctors wearing on a daily basis. While Theodora couldn’t read or write, she believed a better life was in store for her son. She worked long hours selling fruit and running errands in order to save enough money for her youngest boy to attend high school. While Theodora didn’t live to see her son become a doctor, the South African government saw Thembinkosi’s potential and paid to send the young man to Cuba. Here, he studied with Cuba’s internationally-respected public health system. Today he is a doctor in his home country.
Dr. Subbarao Polineni
Dr. Subbarao Polineni grew up in a one-room home in Martur, India. Growing up in a home without running water or electricity, it was in Martur that he learned the importance of hard work and loyalty. Polineni eventually immigrated to the United States where he earned high marks in school and eventually became a practicing doctor. His story doesn’t end there—after a successful medical career, he started planning his return to Martur and wanted to give back to the community. In 2014, he opened a school in Martur for unprivileged and orphaned children that now has 316 students.
Dr. Danny Mokumo
Dr. Danny Mokumo knew at a very young age that he wanted to be a medical professional. Dr. Mokumo grew up in a village with access to only a single doctor. His grandfather suffered from diabetes and it was hard to book an appointment when he needed help. He kept his head down and despite his poor background, he excelled in school and graduated with his medical degree. After graduating he started working on community service projects helping poor villagers receive the medical attention they desperately need. He still spends much of his time helping rural children gain the resources they need to succeed in school.
Dr. Ben Carson
We all know Dr. Ben Carson from his failed attempt to become the 45th President of the United States. He is also a world-renowned brain surgeon who has saved the lives of thousands of children. What many people may not realize is that in school his nickname was “dummy.” His biggest supporter, however, never gave up hope. Dr. Carson’s mother only had a third-grade education and worked three jobs because she didn’t want to be on welfare. His family was poor but his mother turned off the TV and taught her children the importance of reading books. His mother made Carson and his siblings write two book reports each week, even though she couldn’t read the results. Dr. Carson would eventually become a professor and the Director of Pediatric Neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins University.
Dr. Nicholas Romanov
Dr. Nicholas Romanov is a man of humble beginnings, growing up in a small town in Russia. The son of a single mother, they often struggled to put food on the table and pay other bills. Eventually, Dr. Romanov moved to the United States in the early 1990s. He thrived as a track and field athlete and held several college-level records in the high jump, which stood the test of time for years. His love of athletics led Dr. Romanov to train various champions in different sports. Over the years he published numerous groundbreaking books on technique and training and developed the “Pose Method®” which was adopted by the United States Military, CrossFit, and professional sports programs including the National Triathlon teams of Great Britain, United States, Mexico and Russia.
Dr. Francis Marshalleck
Like many of the other doctors on our list, Dr. Marshalleck started his life living with a poor mother who struggled to get by. His mother was a seamstress and she stressed the importance of hard work to her son. “You do it until the job is done—give your best effort with what you have,” said Dr. Marshalleck. His hard work paid off and he eventually earned a scholarship to study medicine. After finishing his doctoral work he returned from Jamaica to Belize for two years and worked with patients in his native land. He eventually moved to the United States after a radiology fellowship director at the University of Texas at Houston—whose father spent time as a missionary in Belize—recognized his talent and enthusiasm despite the harsh conditions in which he worked. Hard work really does pay off.
Dr. Kumar Bahuleyan
Dr. Bahuleyan grew up in a poor village in India where his family had no access to running water, electricity, plumbing, schools, phones or medical care. In the 1930s, he watched as three of his siblings died from a roundworm infestation. His father wanted a better life for Kumar and convinced the headmaster of a lower-caste school to allow Kumar to attend for free. Eventually, he went on to be a neurosurgeon in New York before returning to his hometown to give back to the community. Dr. Bahuleyan has spent over $20 million of his personal earnings to set up a health clinic, a neurosurgery hospital, a spa and schools in his hometown.
Dr. Raul Ruiz
Dr. Raul Ruiz grew up in Coachella, California where his parents were farmers. The family had little money and Raul and his brother shared a bed that converted into a kitchen table for years. Raul was accepted into UCLA and went on to graduate magna cum laude before attending Harvard Medical School. After graduating, he worked abroad in El Salvador and Serbia to serve as a consultant to the Ministries of Health. Now, Dr. Raul Ruiz is an emergency room physician at a non-profit hospital in California.
Dr. Umra Omar
Umra Omar was a Kenyan prospering in America when she gave up a successful career to help her fellow Kenyans. After realizing that millions of women were receiving no prenatal care and witnessing families who had no access to vaccinations from potentially fatal diseases, she founded Safari Doctors in 2014. Omar now leads a small team of doctors who treat patients all over the area. They travel by air, dirt road, and boat. Getting to many of the villages they serve means traveling by donkey, a task they undertake on a regular basis. Despite the risk of being kidnapped or killed by Somalian terrorists, they continue to do their work on a daily basis. When terrorists burned down their clinic in 2015, the group continued to work without a building.
Dr. Brendan Graham
Captain Brendan Grahm is a member of the U.S. Army and a Jeopardy! champion. After taking home the win during three episodes of the popular trivia-based TV show, he announced plans to keep only half his winnings of $46,602. The San Antonio Military Medical Center revealed after his win that he would donate the other half to two military charities that were “very dear” to the hearts of him and his wife, Lindsey, also an Army physician at SAMMC. Half his winnings went to Wounded Warrior Project and the other half was donated to the Fisher House—a project that pays for housing for families and loved ones of wounded soldiers so they can be close to their soldiers in their recuperation and their recovery.
Dr. Kevin Morton
When Dr. Kevin Morton was a college student he worked 48 hours a week at a local Arby’s so he could support his educational goals. When walking through the parking lot one night he was shot in the stomach by a stranger. Morton attempted to drive himself to the police but passed out and drifted off the road. A witness thankfully saw his car drift and called 911. His doctor only gave the young man a 10% chance of living but he woke up after surgery and not only survived but thrived. Immediately after he recovered the young man enrolled in Michigan State University where he studied tirelessly to become a doctor. After finishing medical school he took up residency at St. John’s Hospital—the same hospital where his life was saved by Dr. Sheth.
Dr. Bob Paeglow
With years of experience under his belt and a bedside manner that few doctors achieve, Dr. Bob Paeglow is a very special doctor in his community in Albany, New York. However, he doesn’t work for a big paycheck. Instead, he treats patients for free. Not only is Dr. Paeglow a free doctor, he goes out of his way to pay for medication and therapy when his patients can’t afford the help they need. According to Dr. Bob, “It’s simply the right thing to do,” and it’s not something he plans to give up at any time in his career. He truly is an amazing doctor and superb human being.
Dr. David Molina
Dr. David Molina passed away in 1996 at the age of 70 but his spirit lives on. Molina’s healthcare business grew astronomically under his control and turned into a Fortune 500 company—but it was the doctor’s community outreach that earned him the most praise. As an emergency room physician in Long Beach, Dr. Molina treated many low-income, uninsured and non-English speaking residents who didn’t have a family doctor. People who knew the doctor said even as his success grew, he remained a compassionate and giving doctor who treated every patient like they were part of his immediate family. His company now serves more than 5 million people annually, most of whom are patients that are covered by various government-based medical insurance programs.
Dr. Maya Bhattachan
Dr. Maya Bhattachan is Nepal’s first female neurosurgeon and her selfless work has touched the lives of many people in the country. Dr. Bhattachan is known for setting up and operating various medical camps and disaster relief operations when residents need her assistance the most. Her heart knows no bounds and in 2015, she adopted a baby girl who was thrown out of a window by her drunken father. Her work requires long and unpredictable hours and her status as the first female neurosurgeon in the country brings its own challenges, which she faces head on every single day.
Dr. Carrol Frazier Landrum
In a small and poor Mississippi town, there’s a doctor who is treating underprivileged patients out of the back of his Toyota Camry. Transportation is limited in the area and an emergency room visit can lead to catastrophic financial stress for people in the town. Dr. Carrol Frazier Landrum is an 88-year-old physician from Edwards, Mississippi and for the last three years, he has been meeting patients wherever they are located, treating them right out of the back of his 2007 Toyota Camry. The World War II veteran ran a private practice for 55 years before he found a new call of duty. Landrum said he was recently asked by the Mississippi State Board of Medical Licensure to surrender his medical license. He says the medical board has deemed him “incompetent” even though he has never done anything to warrant that claim, he says.
Dr. Bhakti Yadav
Dr. Bhakti Yadav was profiled in 2016 after it was discovered that the 91-year-old gynecologist had been treating patients for free since 1948. While she doesn’t treat as many patients these days because of her age, her years of medical service have led many people to see out training and advice from this amazing doctor. Dr. Bhakti Yadav has helped deliver thousands of babies, without taking any fees from her patients. She seeks out patients who are in the direst of financial circumstances and offers her services at no charge.
Dr. Merideth Norris
Maine doctor Merideth Norris understands that people suffering from various addictions don’t often have the financial means to get the help they need. She is also well aware of the state’s growing heroin epidemic that is tearing families apart. Dr. Norris travels to various locations around Maine, offering medication-assisted treatment, such as methadone. Her goal is simple—to bring about a bigger discussion about addiction and how the community can help treat those people who are in most need of help. Dr. Norris’ work has grabbed the attention of the medical community as a record number of drug-related deaths have occurred in Maine over the last several years.
Dr. Sheik Umar Khan
Doctor Sheik Umar Khan was the Chief Doctor in Sierra Leonean during the Ebola outbreak in 2014. The virologist was credited with treating more than 100 patients who contracted the deadly virus. The Sierra Leone Health Ministry deemed the doctor a “national hero” when he passed away on July 29, 2014. Sadly, he was not offered a dose of the experimental drug ZMapp, though one was available. Dr. Khan knew he was putting his life in danger during the Ebola outbreak but he continued to work. He is largely credited with stopping the spread of the virus which was contracted by at least 5,000 people in the region.