Here is Kate’s Welcome to Nashville Presentation. Enjoy and feel free to email us with suggestions!
Medicine as Gift, Power and Christian Vocation
by Farr A. Curlin, MD
Today’s Christian Doctor – Winter 2010
Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in the journal Health & Development, published by the Christian Community Health Fellowship (CCHF), information about which can be found at: www.cchf.org.
What is medicine? Is it a science? Is it a profession? Is it an industry? What has the Christian tradition to say about medicine? And does what the Christian tradition says really matter in the end? In hopes of beginning to address these questions, this essay explores three Christian metaphors which apply to the practice of medicine, namely medicine as gift, medicine as power, and medicine as vocation. For each metaphor, I will attempt to identify errors and blind spots toward which we are prone, point to resources within the Christian tradition for correcting our mistakes, and suggest some very preliminary steps toward what I hope is a way forward.
There are limited FREE spots for up to 10 students, click here for student registration.
If you missed a week or the whole Health Care ReFramed Series from May and June here is your chance to see what you missed!
Week 3 – Health Care ReFramed 3 – Creation
Week 4 – Health Care ReFramed 4 – Redemption & New Creation
If you missed Dr. Wood’s talk this past March here is a link to watch; please forgive the not so great audio quality!
About Professor Wood: Ralph C. Wood has served as University Professor of Theology and Literature at Baylor since 1998. He previously served for 26 years on the faculty of Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, where he became the John Allen Easley Professor of Religion in 1990. He has also taught at Samford University in Birmingham, at Regent College in Vancouver, and at Providence College in Rhode Island and has spoken internationally including the Vatican and Notre Dame and most continents. At Baylor, his main appointment is in the Religion Department, but he also teaches in the Great Texts program as well as the Department of English. He serves as an editor-at-large for the Christian Century and as an editorial board member for both the Flannery O’Connor Review and Seven: An Anglo-American Literary Review.
by Dr. Wes Ely
Read that quote again. Notice that most of the world operates the other way around. We first seek to understand and then begin to believe. Indeed, absence of understanding serves as a stumbling block for so many of us in our faith journey. But the instruction above, the truth above, is to believe in order to begin understanding.
When I was a boy, my mother gave me a small bookmark with a picture of Jesus at the top. Below that she wrote, “Wes, Jesus loves you. May you know this and love and serve Him all the days of your life.” I knew immediately it was true, internalized what she had written, and never looked back. It was a Grace, clearly. As I told this story to a Vanderbilt medical student last week at the beginning of the year barbecue for the SSCD (Society of Saints Cosmas and Damian, the Catholic medical student association), she recounted how she had been similarly “gifted.” All of us who have made the choice to believe, to walk in faith, have been blessed with such a grace. Yet it must never be taken for granted, and we must nurture this faith daily.
Isaiah 7:9 is used to begin Chapter 2 of Pope Francis’s encyclical letter, Lumen Fidei. During this year of faith, we are called to dive deep into our own personal journey towards God. Fulton Sheen points out that this journey is our response to Him having initially reached down to us. Christianity, he says, is a religion in which God first reached down to man, as opposed to most other religions where man is reaching up towards God. Returning to this quote, then, what do we make of our own ability to believe even in the absence of full understanding?
St. Paul tells us, “One believes with the heart.” (Romans 10:10) and we know that ultimately our faith is a leap of the heart. It will depend not upon our understanding, or upon our “seeing” God, but rather upon whether or not we actually hear what we have been told happened 2000 years ago. Not vision, but “hearing” will be the key. Jesus cried to us, “Anyone who has ears for listening should listen!” (Mk 4:9 and Lk 8:8)
Later in the second chapter of Lumen Fidei, Popes Benedict XVI and Francis (since they co-wrote the encyclical), recount the story of St. Augustine from Confessions when he heard a voice telling him to “take and read.” He then took up the epistles of St. Paul and, having listened, began to read. Are we listening? His speaking to you won’t be a thunderbolt or an auditory exclamation that others around you can hear, but when we believe, even before we understand, we will be driven to pray and talk to our God. Such conversations, when coupled with adequate listening, will bring us a message of hope, happiness, and joy that should physically produce a smile.
Let me explore one other angle with the same ultimate point. It is known that Pope Francis loves Dostoevsky. For all of us in medicine, who understand physiology and the rheology of blood flow, Dostoevsky provides another side of belief, without understanding, in his 1869 novel The Idiot. In this story, the character Prince Myshkin, is obsessed with the painting of the body of the dead Christ in the tomb by Hans Holbein the younger, which was painted in the 1500s. The character mistakenly concludes that the visual of Christ on such a dilapidated path towards putrefaction could make one lose faith. Really?
Or is it the other way around?! Seeing that body in such a state, knowing the blood flow has clotted, the organs are filled with edematous fluid, and then believing, even before understanding, that this body was resurrected, alive, eating fish on a beach with friends… It is then, just following Apostle Thomas’s Divine declaration of our Lord (which was incidentally the first of any person in the New Testament), that the words of Christ make the most sense:
“You believe because you can see me. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe” (Jn 20:29)… even without understanding…
“Unless you believe, you will not understand.” Isaiah 7:9
Trying to figure out what “whole person health care” really looks like? Would you welcome an opportunity to hear and discuss actual cases in person?
On Mondays in the month of February, The Siloam Institute will be partnering with two medical student organizations at Vanderbilt in a series of case presentations and discussions about the realities of Whole Person Health Care. Below is a description provided by the student leaders of Medical Christian Fellowship:
Striving to see and care for one’s patients as the complicated human beings they are is a difficult thing in the hectic, busy environment of health care. The following series will explore the joys and challenges of practicing medicine in a way that acknowledges and addresses patients and their health problems from a holistic perspective, seeing patients as physical, emotional, and spiritual beings.
Doctors from the Nashville area will share their experiences and lessons learned and engage in discussion on this topic in the format of case presentations. The final session will consist of a primarily discussion-style forum in which participants will discuss the presented cases along with the issues and challenges they raised in regards to Whole Person Health Care, in order to glean further insight into the practical expression of caring for patients as complete human beings in the context of everyday medical practice.
The Siloam Institute of Faith, Health and Culture will be co-sponsoring this series along with the student organizations Medical Christian Fellowship (MCF) and the Society of Saints Cosmos and Damian (SSCD).
These presentations will be held for four consecutive Monday’s at 12 pm, noon in Light Hall, Room 202 on the Vanderbilt Medical Campus and will last for one hour. Lunch will be provided.
February 4th–Dr. Morgan Wills, Siloam Family Health Center
February 11th–Dr. Anderson Spickard, III, Vanderbilt School of Medicine
February 18th–Speaker TBD
February 25th–Dr. Morgan McDonald, Vanderbilt School of Medicine