David Gaus received an accounting degree from Notre Dame in 1984. After a soul-searching conversation with then university president Rev. Theodore Hesburgh, Gaus traveled to Ecuador, where he spent two years volunteering at an orphanage. There he witnessed the marginalization of a population of mostly women and children who lacked access to even basic health services.
The experience changed Gaus’ life forever. He returned to the United States, where, with the assistance of Fr. Hesburgh and columnist Eppie Lederer (“Ann Landers”), Gaus re-enrolled at Notre Dame to complete his pre-medical studies and then enrolled in Tulane Medical School.
In 1992, Gaus earned his medical degree and a master’s in Public Health and Tropical Medicine from Tulane University. Following a residency at the University of Wisconsin, Gaus returned to Ecuador and soon discovered that rural hospital care was the country’s greatest need. In 1996, Gaus and Fr. Hesburgh started Andean Health & Development (AHD) to provide self-sustaining, comprehensive health care to the rural poor. Their pilot project was a hospital in the underserved community of Pedro Vicente Maldonado (PVM). The hospital opened in 2000 and by 2007 was 100 percent financially self-sustaining. Hospital PVM provides high-quality secondary care to an extended community of 80,000. PVM is also a training ground for physicians, nurses, and other leaders in the local community.
Gaus’s current project, Hesburgh Hospital in Santo Domingo, Ecuador, continues to expand the reach of AHD. In Santo Domingo, AHD has built a training center that includes a simulation lab contextualized for rural Latin America and will serve as a headquarters for training the region’s public-sector physicians. Hesburgh Hospital opened in June 2014 and serves a community of 600,000, of which half live below the poverty line. The hospital is expected to be financially self-sustaining within two years.
Gaus' work is a real-life example writ large of the power of business to bring about social change, particularly in the area of health care access to the underserved in developing countries. In addition to publishing numerous articles, Gaus has served as a thought leader in designing systems to deliver services to some of the most overlooked and neglected among these populations. His awards include the Nathan Davis International Award in Medicine by the American Medical Association (2014), Social Entrepreneur for Latin America by the World Economic Forum (2010), and the Thomas A. Dooley Award by the University of Notre Dame (1999).