“So how does your faith affect your practice of medicine?”
Perhaps this is a question I should have been ready for, but when it was asked of me last week in an interview, I had a difficult time answering it.
Later, as I pondered the question, I realized the reason this was hard to answer was that I have never NOT been a Christian doctor. Faith has always been a part of life. I was amazingly blessed to grow up in a Christian home with parents who taught me to trust in the Lord. I learned at a young age when we moved to Africa as missionaries, that the most important thing in life was obedience to God’s word and His calling on your life. In their mid-thirties they sold their home and everything they had, packed up 3 kids and moved to Central Africa. Being on the mission field, even those few years, changed me, making me realize that the world is so much bigger than our suburban bubble.
When it came to choosing a medical school, specialty and practice location, I persistently prayed until I knew the direction He would have me pursue. Medical school was tough, but OB/GYN residency was hellish. I would often work 100- 120 hours a week, under less than ideal conditions. Having a strong foundation in my faith and the peace of knowing I was in God’s will, helped me survive the rigors of medical training, without becoming jaded and discouraged. While many around me became hardened through the process, I think that knowing that God had specially called me to be an OB/GYN helped me to not just survive, but thrive during that trying time. While others experienced divorce, I saw my marriage strengthened. I was amazingly thankful for the solid foundation laid by my parents and teachers that allowed me to weather those challenging times.
In my day to day practice, I try to start each day with prayer. Some days it’s a full ‘quiet time’ with Bible reading and coffee, other times it’s a brief ‘Lord give me wisdom and guide my steps’ prayer, as I race in because a baby is coming ahead of schedule. I try to follow the spirit’s leading, even if that just means spending extra time with a patient ‘just letting them talk’. I don’t by any means pray with every patient. Really, I think a lot of people would be freaked out if I prayed over their pap smear. Certainly, if a patient asks then I feel honored to pray with her. If I feel led to pray with a patient, I always ask their permission first.
There are times when medicine doesn’t have the answers and all I can do is pray. Most people think of obstetrics as a ‘happy job’ and it is a lot of the time. However the lows can be extremely low. The loss of an unborn child is tragic. These are times of sadness when again, all I can do for my patients is weep and mourn with them and pray for supernatural comfort.
One thing I would sometimes worry about early on in my practice was that God would lead me to do something that didn’t make sense medically. This has never happened. This seams a silly fear in hind sight, since He is the great physician after all.
What I never thought to consider, was how my faith would be impacted by medicine. The things I see on regular basis reaffirm his omnipotence as creator. To have the privilege of helping to bring life into this world is to experience a miracle each and every time. I’ve delivered over a thousand babies, and each time I still feel a sense of awe as I look upon the beauty of creation.
Knowing too much can at the same time make it harder to have faith. When someone at church asks for prayer for a condition I know to be terminal, my first thoughts are usually ones related to the odds of recovery, versus thoughts on the awesome abilities of our God. Yes, its ironic that I can at one moment be mesmerized by the beauty and genius that is life, all the while glorifying the creator, and the next be doubting his ability to ‘fix’ his own marvelous creation. This is an area in which I struggle.
We live in a fallen world; I am by no means a perfect doctor or a perfect Christian. I give my all, but sometimes despite my best efforts and prayers, outcomes do not go the way I would like. When that happens, it is hard not to doubt myself on both levels. Bad things happen to good people. In medicine we see that commonly. In addition to pouring through the medical chart wondering if there was something I could have done differently that would have made a difference, I will wonder if maybe I had prayed harder that day the outcome would have been different.
What being a Christian doctor does NOT mean to me is putting a Jesus fish on my business card or a scripture on my business logo. I don’t feel comfortable using my faith as a marketing ploy, plus patients need to feel comfortable with telling me things that may not seem very ‘Christian’. I need to know their full history to take care of them: sexual history, abortions, drugs. All of these affect their gynecological care, and they feel that they can be honest with me and that I won’t be judgmental. My bio on our practice website says that I went to ORU and am involved in my church, so I think most people can figure out I’m a Christian, but I don’t advertise my medical practice as faith based.
So, I guess to me being a Christian doctor means that I live in awe and thankfulness of both the miracle of life and the privilege of getting to help bring it safely into this world. I pray for guidance, wisdom, and to be led by the spirit on a daily basis. I preserve through the challenging moments, knowing without a doubt that God has called me to this field to help women any way I can.