The Medical Mission
Dr. James G. Diller

No one has to tell Dr. Diller about multi-tasking; he was living it long before the term existed. The retired reconstructive surgeon was practicing plastic surgery in Toledo while he was a fellow of both the American College of Surgeons and the American College of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgeons. Years later, as former president of the Academy of Medicine of Toledo, he didn’t allow a quadruple coronary bypass to halt his work; he began a new career as medical director of several HMOs and PPOs, including Aetna Health Plans and MedChoice. His subsequent fellowship with the American College of Physician Executives and his certification in the American Board of Medical Management were simply a few more steps in a professional journey.

The journey began for the Michigan native with a bachelor’s degree from Wheaton College and medical degree from Ohio State Medical Schools, with specialization at the Institut de Medicin Tropicale in Antwerp, Belgium. He’s quick to point out, however, that what he terms his first career began as a medical missionary in the then-Belgian Congo. His experiences there inspired his later organization of medical mission trips to Haiti, which by 1982, found 80 people working at several Haitian sites and attracted national attention via CBS’s Charles Kuralt.

The Dominican Republic was the next field of operation for Diller’s medical missionaries; since 1990, they’ve been joined during spring break by medical students of the then-Medical College of Ohio, now The University of Toledo College of Medicine. Partnerships with the Solid Rock Mission and other Midwest mission teams resulted in some 50,000 patients seen, 3,500 surgeries performed and 3,000 malnourished children helped by 1998. A school built in 1995 enrolls over 1,000 K-12 students. Even the devastation of Hurricane George in 1998 didn’t stop growth, which most recently is focusing on a new teaching hospital in the poorest sector of the Dominican, with special emphasis on reducing the twin scourges of maternal and infant mortality.

Now a medical consultant, he’s been honored with awards that include the Service to Humanity Award from the Sertoma Club, the Voice of Conscience Award from Aetna and most recently, Health Advocate of the Year 2006 from ProMedica. And, of course, there’s the Diller Foundation, created to provide a more effective international distribution system of medical supplies and equipment to countries that need them most.  Diller serves as chairman of the board of directors.

James and his wife, Jean, raised five children and from their home in Ann Arbor, Michigan, are enjoying their seven grandchildren.