At age 5, while growing up in Lake View, David Lewis already knew what he wanted to be -- a medical doctor, specifically a pediatrician.
It was his lifelong passion, and he looked forward to returning repeatedly to Quito, Ecuador, on a medical mission, training doctors and treating young heart patients. When he took a job as a pediatric cardiologist in Milwaukee a few years ago, he insisted that his contract allow him to return to Ecuador each year.
"He felt that just bringing down medical equipment and supplies and dumping it on their doorstep wasn't sufficient," said a sister, Ellen of Buffalo. "He felt you needed to go in and work with the people who would be working with the children and their families."
Dr. David A. Lewis, 43, died pursuing his passion on one of those medical missions. His body was found on the morning of Sept. 12, 2001, in his Quito hotel room, apparently after he was stricken overnight.
The night before, after hearing about the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, Lewis talked with his wife, Sarah, back in Milwaukee, saying he should be home with her and their three children. But she assured him that they were safe and that he needed to remain in Quito, treating patients and training doctors.
Lewis died on his sixth weeklong visit to Ecuador, part of the Doctors Without Borders mission run by Por Cristo, a medical volunteer services organization. The Catholic Archdiocese of Boston founded Por Cristo, in response to a 1979 challenge by Pope John Paul II to help the people of Latin America.
A Buffalo native, Lewis graduated from Frontier Central High School in 1975 and the University at Buffalo in 1979, and he played varsity soccer for both schools. He earned his medical degree at George Washington University in 1986, before serving as chief resident in the pediatric residency program at National Children's Medical Center in Washington, D.C. During his residency, he came back to Buffalo for a three-month rotation in pediatrics at Children's Hospital.
In 1994, Lewis moved to Milwaukee, serving as a pediatric cardiologist and director of the Medical Education Training Program at Children's Hospital of Wisconsin.
Family members and colleagues said Lewis put his soul into his work, whether he was kissing his young patients on the forehead, calling them by their special nicknames, delivering eulogies at some of their funerals or volunteering for a medical mission. More than 700 people packed his memorial Mass in Milwaukee.
"It's unbelievable how many lives he touched in his short life," his sister Ellen said.
Surviving, besides his wife and sister Ellen, are two sons, Matthew and Michael; a daughter, Meghan; and another sister, Ann of Buffalo.
A memorial Mass will be offered at 10 a.m. Saturday in Our Lady of Perpetual Help Catholic Church, 2052 Lakeview Road, Lake View.