The University of Colorado School of Medicine Alumni Association honored Theodore Ning, MD, with the Humanitarian Award at the 2019 Silver & Gold Alumni Banquet May 23. Dr. Ning was recognized for lifelong service to society, extraordinary service to the community, and leadership through global and local service.
Ning completed his urology residency at the CU School of Medicine in 1975 after earning his medical degree at Northwestern University Medical School, and went on to lead humanitarian and development efforts around the world. He has impacted countless lives through a diverse career combining medicine and humanitarian service.
After an internship at Northwestern University Medical School in 1969, he was drafted into the U.S. Army and served in Vietnam, where his interest in rural communities was sparked. He and his wife, Connie, adopted a daughter from Vietnam, and helped found a Colorado adoption agency to provide aid and assist in adoptions.
During his chief residency year, Ning was involved in Operation Babylift, helping organize 4,000 Denver volunteers to care for 600 Vietnamese orphans evacuated from Vietnam to Denver as the war ended. Ning enjoyed training medical students and residents, and rose through the ranks at the CU School of Medicine to clinical professor, a rank he holds today.
In 1988, the Nings returned to Vietnam and created Friendship Bridge, which started with medical and nursing education programs, and medical equipment shipments. They created an exchange program that brought 24 Vietnamese professors to the U.S. for advanced training. There were 15 programs that involved 400 American volunteers. Eventually, they shifted focus to childhood malnutrition in the rural areas, and discovered women as the center of development and the innovative system of women’s microcredit paired with education. Nike Inc. funded their program in the rural areas surrounding footwear plants.
In 1995, Ning left private practice to devote his energies to Friendship Bridge and other global health opportunities. He and Connie visited Guatemala and, in 1998, created another women’s microcredit and education program that currently serves 25,000 families. In 2007, focusing on adolescent rural Mayan girls as the agents of community change, they started Starfish One By One (now renamed Maia Impact), to help the next generation break the cycle of poverty through scholarships, mentorships and internships. Since its inception, 270 girls have graduated from high school, and 50 are currently attending university. Many of the mothers of these students never attended school, nor do they speak Spanish.
Ning served as a founding board member of the Center for Global Health and was awarded the 2016 Excellence in Global Health Award by the Colorado School of Public Health at the CU Anschutz Medical Campus. He continues to work part-time as a urology hospitalist, and to teach and volunteer in Colorado and abroad. His many honors include Clinical Teacher of the Year (Division of Urology), the Alpha Omega Medical Honor Society (faculty award) and an Honorary Doctorate from the CU Board of Regents.