Dr. Lawrence Mueller spent 45 years as a cardiothoracic surgeon, with successful vascular surgery practices in California and New Jersey. In addition, he also led annual medical missions to the northern Thai-Burmese border, caring for desperate Burmese refugees.
He described his 25 years of caring for the poorest of the poor, and of training medics and upgrading medical clinics, in a book he wrote in 2021, called Jungle Surgeon.
The book is available on Amazon, but he recently sent a copy to his freshman algebra teacher — in 1963 — at Saint Viator High School, Fr. Arnold Perham, CSV, who just celebrated 75 years as a Viatorian. Mueller, like many of Fr. Perham’s former students, reached out to congratulate him on his jubilee, and to thank him.
“When I was in eighth grade, the older students all said that algebra courses in high school would be the hardest to pass,” Mueller wrote. “Your teaching methods must have been different because I had no problems and therefore got an excellent GPA and went to be accepted by Notre Dame and Loyola Stritch School of Medicine.”
“The confidence you taught me,” he added, “opened the door for me to help the poorest of the poor.”
Fr. Perham enjoyed receiving the book and catching up with his former student during a recent phone call. Though he has been retired since 2002, Fr. Perham continues to work with students in Saint Viator’s Math team and in its Querbes Scholars program. Each semester, he challenges these scholars to solve math problems that often mix historical events and literature.
“I enjoyed his book, he’s a really good writer,” Fr. Perham said. “But what I really like is how he is driven by gospel values.”
In fact, Mueller repeated a gospel passage at the end of their phone call, and he included the same passage in the dedication of his book: “Insofar as you did this for the least of my brethren, you did it for me.” (Matthew 25:40)
Fr. Perham finds that same inspiration in the Viatorian mission, of “embracing those accounted of little importance.”