Dr. Timothy Meade spent most of his adult life thousands of miles from home and family, tucked deep into places where the needs were great and the resources thin.
The Golden Valley native and University of Minnesota-trained physician ran medical clinics in Russia, served with Doctors Without Borders in Ukraine, and for the last 13 years of his life, treated pregnant women and children with HIV in Zambia. After adopting the infant son of a patient stricken with AIDS, Meade helped found a nonprofit group dedicated to providing medical supplies and support to a country where HIV is epidemic.
Friends and family members said Meade, who died Sept. 3 at age 56 after suffering a massive heart attack, never thought about moving back to the United States for a more lucrative medical career.
“Given his training, he could have been driving a convertible Mercedes and living in Malibu,” said Andrew Holmes, a professor at Brigham Young University who befriended Meade and visited his medical clinic in Lusaka, Zambia. “He literally couldn’t stand the thought of people suffering.”
Growing up in Golden Valley, where he graduated from high school, Meade was a thoughtful, sensitive kid, the kind who left out peanut butter for squirrels and tried to nurse injured birds back to health. A high school study abroad trip to Mexico, where he lived with a doctor and his family, sparked an interest in both medicine and travel that persisted through college and medical school at the University of Minnesota. After earning his medical degree, Meade completed a residency in San Francisco, and spent a few years in the early 1990s working at United Hospital in St. Paul.
But by 1995, when he landed a job as a medical director for clinics in Russia, Ukraine and the Czech Republic, Meade had been drawn in by the needs of patients across the world. He spent eight years in Eastern Europe, serving as the medical officer at the British Embassy in Moscow and launching a mother-to-child HIV prevention program with Doctors Without Borders in Ukraine.
“Once he left and went overseas to Russia, he never considered coming back here,” said his mother, Betty Meade. “He always liked the work he was doing, liked the fact that he was working with people who couldn’t help themselves and fell between the cracks.”
In 2003, Meade moved to Zambia, a country where more than 14 percent of adults have HIV. In addition to his duties running a medical clinic, Meade began working in his spare time to ensure that pregnant women and children with HIV were receiving proper medical care. Not long after he arrived, he treated a pregnant woman with AIDS who had been found living in a bus station.
Knowing that her chances of survival were low, she asked Meade to take care of her baby — and named him Timothy, in honor of the doctor who had helped her. Meade took in the boy as a foster child, as he had with several other children in Zambia, and eventually adopted him.
Around that time, Meade’s parents visited Zambia. They saw the baby boy their son had taken in — and dozens of other children and adults suffering without access to medical treatment and supplies. They returned home to Golden Valley determined to help. They set up a fund they called Tiny Tim and Friends, which eventually grew into a nonprofit foundation, now supporting hundreds of patients at a clinic in Zambia.
Connie Carrino, a foundation board member, said the group plans to continue its efforts, though it will be difficult to replace the doctor who had quietly moved others to help.
“He never pushed or boasted about his role, never lectured about social injustice or human suffering,” she said. “He just had this quiet way of drawing you in to hear the story about where there was a need.”
Meade is survived by his son, parents, Tom and Betty Meade, six siblings and their families. Services have been held.