If you were to simply read his résumé, you might assume Geoff Tabin is "just" a world-class athlete. After all, he is an accomplished mountaineer and was the fourth person to conquer climbing's Holy Grail — the Seven Summits. But reaching the highest peak on all seven continents isn't what he likes to be known for.
His résumé might also lead you to assume he's a celebrity of sorts. He's been the subject of countless magazine articles, has a book about him coming out next month, and has been featured in documentaries and National Geographic specials. But if you asked for his autograph, he would think you had him confused with someone else.
Scroll a little farther down his résumé, (it's long, this might not be until page 12 or so) and you'll think, "Oh, I get it. He's a dignitary." Makes sense given that pictures of him with His Holiness, the Dali Lama, adorn his office walls. They meet regularly.
It's also not difficult to assume he's an academic — he's got diplomas from Oxford, Harvard and Yale and is known for his pioneering research at the University of Utah.
But if you ask Dr. Geoff Tabin how he should be classified, he nonchalantly shrugs his shoulders, makes a face like he's just tasted something unpleasant and says, "I'm just a guy doing the best I can to make someone else's life a little better."
This is perhaps the biggest understatement since the pilot of the Hindenburg said, "I smell gas."
Geoff Tabin has singlehandedly cured thousands of people in the developing world of blindness. Indirectly, the number is in the millions. Fifteen years ago he made it his personal mission to eliminate preventable blindness and he founded the Cure Blindness Foundation.
"We started by going a few times a year and performing cataract surgeries. But we quickly realized the need was far greater than our availability. So we started working with doctors and nurses and medical providers in other countries. We knew if we could train them to provide these surgeries, we could reach millions more."
One look at the numbers and it's obvious his "teach a man to fish" philosophy has been wildly successful. "When we started in Nepal, there were only 15,000 cataract surgeries being performed each year. Today, sight is restored to over 250,000 people a year in this country alone," Dr. Tabin added.
His charity has also been able to jump continents and currently works in Rwanda, Nepal, Ethiopia, India and Ghana.
Despite his extended resume, filled with achievements normally reserved for the entire staff of the United Nations, Dr. Tabin is hoping to qualify for another designation. On May 15, he hopes you will consider him a motivational speaker.
That's because he is the keynote speaker at The Hope Alliance fundraising breakfast, which will be held at Temple Har Shalom. Also speaking at the breakfast will be David Utrilla, honorary consul of Peru in Utah, and Dr. John Hanrahan, the founder of The Hope Alliance.
The Hope Alliance is a Park City-based nonprofit that provides humanitarian relief to the developing world. Although The Hope Alliance's mission is a little broader than Dr. Tabin's nonprofit, and includes surgical, dental, medical and vision care along with water and school projects, Dr. Tabin says these assorted efforts all funnel together for the better.
"We're all working together to make the world a better place. None of us can do everything, but we can all do something. And that's what I want to communicate to people," he stresses. "The greatest mistake we make is to do nothing because we can only do a little, and we don't think that matters. It all matters."
Dr. Hanrahan has known Dr. Tabin for several years and knew he would be an inspiring example to the Park City community.
"Seeing the change one man can make in the world is really a motivating and empowering thing," Dr. Hanrahan said. "It's truly an honor to have Geoff Tabin as our keynote speaker. Anyone who comes to this fundraiser to hear him speak will leave stirred. When you have been given much in life, you have an obligation to give to others. Geoff shows just how easily we can all do that."
If you'd like to learn more about The Hope Alliance, attend the breakfast and hear Dr. Tabin speak, or make a donation, please visit: www.TheHopeAlliance.org .
Amy Roberts is a longtime Park City resident, freelance writer and the proud owner of two ill-behaved rescue dogs, Boston and Stanley.