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Chaney once worked with Albert Schweitzer.
In more than a half-century as a globe-traveling humanitarian, working with everyone from Nobel Peace Prize winner Albert Schweitzer (1875–1965) to the legendary “jungle doctor” Thomas A. Dooley (1927–61), Verne E. Chaney Jr. ’48 had a profound impact on the lives of countless needy people in severely underserved corners of the world.
Chaney died on Feb. 12 in Red Bank, New Jersey. He was 94.
At the outbreak of the Korean War in 1950, Chaney left his surgical residency at Johns Hopkins to volunteer for service as a battalion surgeon, becoming one of the most highly decorated physicians of the conflict. He earned a Purple Heart for wounds he received in the 1951 Battle of Heartbreak Ridge while rescuing a wounded soldier trapped in a minefield. He also received a Silver Star for gallantry, a Bronze Star for valor and a French Croix de Guerre.
After the war, he began his humanitarian career by volunteering as the first director and chief surgeon at Hópital Albert Schweitzer in Haiti, built by others in honor of the renowned physician. Chaney then went to Africa to work for Schweitzer himself at the hospital he had founded in Lambaréné in what now is Gabon.
In 1960, Chaney volunteered as a surgeon and field consultant with Dooley in Vietnam and Cambodia. Following Dooley’s untimely death from cancer, Chaney gave up a lucrative private surgical practice to help create the Dr. Tom Dooley Foundation. In 1971, he established its international arm, Dooley Intermed International.
Heading these organizations for 53 years, Chaney initiated, managed and supported a broad range of medical aid programs in 14 nations throughout Southeast Asia and elsewhere. His foundations conducted landmark population and health surveys while educating and training thousands of local physicians, nurses, physical therapists, technicians and community health workers.
Among the accolades Chaney earned were Laos’ highest civilian award, the Order of the Million Elephants and the White Parasol, and the first Sir Edmund Hillary Humanitarian Award from The Explorers Club in New York.
In a statement on his efforts, Chaney asserted: “The task is never done—though battles are won—the war against hunger, disease and ignorance is unending and must be fought .... by men and women united by a consciousness of the brotherhood of man.”