1927 - 1961

“Dedicate some of your life to others. Your dedication will not be a sacrifice. It will be an exhilarating experience because it is an intense effort applied toward a meaningful end.”

– Thomas Dooley

As a navy doctor, Dooley supervised a medical assistance program for more than 600,000 refugees fleeing from North Vietnam to the south in 1954; he later established a network of hospitals and clinics in Southeast Asia to serve the rural poor. Dooley — who was considered America's answer to renowned humanitarian Albert Schweitzer - was named the seventh most-admired man in the U.S. in a 1959 Gallup poll. That same year, following an anonymous tip, the Navy launched an elaborate six-week investigation — that included wire-tapping private phones and monitoring his personal contacts — which resulted in Lieutenant Dr. Tom Dooley being dishonorably discharged from the military for being gay. In spite of this, Dooley was hailed as an inspirational example of one man's commitment to a greater cause when President John F. Kennedy launched the Peace Corps. Dooley was posthumously awarded the Congressional Gold Medal in 1961. A statue dedicated in his honor stands at the University of Notre Dame.

Lesson Plan


Gender Male

Sexual Orientation Gay

Gender Identity Cisgender

Ethnicity Caucasian/White

Faith Construct Catholic

Nations Affiliated United States Laos

Era/Epoch Cold War (1945-1991) Vietnam War (1955-1975)

Field(s) of Contribution





Social Justice

Social Sciences

STEM & Medicine

US History

Commemorations & Honors

Dr. Tom Dooley Society of Notre Dame

University of Notre Dame and Saint Mary's College LGBT Allumni Annual Thomas A. Dooley Award

Medical International Cooperation Organization Founder

Navy Legion of Merit Awardee (1955)

Posthumous Congressional Gold Medal Awardee (1961)

Posthumous Army Distinguished Service Medal (1969)

Statue Dedicated to Dooley at University of Notre Dame (1986)


Original Biography Author
Victor Salvo
Biography Edited By
Owen Keehnen
Resources Coordination
Carrie Maxwell