METS (Medical Evangelism Training ) Seminar in California – Reflections

Written originally  in Facebook by Victor Lee (medical student in Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine)

On 9 June 2012, as I alighted from the super shuttle in front of the Ayres hotel, I grudgingly dragged my 60 pound luggage thinking: I can’t believe that I will be spending almost 5 weeks in this place. Never did I expect that 5 weeks later, the only thing on my mind is the desire to spend 5 more weeks in Southern California. I will not justify this by saying that we had fun, nor that we learnt a lot throughout these 5 weeks, and  certainly  not because everyone on the preceptorship was amazing – it is much more profound.  The reason is simple: God’s love for us is so great that it is unfathomable. He led all of us to the preceptorship and created a learning environment that is loving, comfortable and effective.  This was the first time I could focus on the patient as a human being rather than a pathological condition or genetic aberration that is of interest to me. There is absolutely no reason why we should treat patients like that. Even secular principles like the Golden Rule tell us that we should not do unto others what we do not want others do unto us. How  about biblical principles that emphasize love as the most important quality that Man must possess?

It is tempting to believe that a ‘good’ healthcare professional is one who is highly skilled and who is able to diagnose a patient swiftly and accurately. I disagree because we are assuming that there are treatments and medications to every type of illness, which is obviously untrue. Even if medical Science can one day achieve the feat of annihilating all forms of illness and disease, Science does not always address the root of problems.  A patient who has a fractured femur owing to abuse from his parents can easily get his femur fixed, but that fixture clearly does not address the root of his problem.  I believe that Science without God is insufficient, and God without Science is inadequate.   It is evident that whole person care, otherwise known as caring for the patient’s physical, spiritual and emotional well being is of prime importance to every healthcare professional.

The secular world believes in the need for whole person care but God’s purpose for us as healthcare professionals is to deliver whole person care to our patients. And it is for this important purpose that He has led us to the preceptorship.   I am appalled that most healthcare professionals go about caring for patients without ever mentioning about their spiritual background. I suspect that it is because they are unaware of this and most people want an ‘easy way out’. From our practicums and mentor shadowing, whole person care is time consuming and it can result in diminished financial returns  as it affects the number of patients we can attend to.  The question then is, how important is money to us and if as healthcare professionals we merely address  patient’s physical well being (and it may not always be successful), are we actually treating and healing the patient completely?

How can we as healthcare professionals carry out whole person care? I humbly suggest that only Christian healthcare professionals can do that effectively, lovingly and safely. This is a tricky issue, as much as I respect people’s freedom to choose their religious beliefs, I believe that only Christianity makes logical and intellectual sense. Medical Science cannot treat a patient’s spiritual and emotional problems. It is only through prayer and having an intimate relationship with God that will result in complete healing and recovery. Scientifically, it has been shown in a great number of studies that religiosity and prayer is directly linked to greater well being and decreased incidence of illness.   If we do not exercise caution we might harm our patients while practicing whole person care. How do we carry out whole person care effectively? Once again, I humbly suggest that we take instruction from the bible. 1 Corinthians 16:14 states that “Let all that you do be done with love”, and this is the essence of whole person care – to show our patients that we love them just as Christ loves us, and I believe that if our actions are motivated by love we will become effective Christian healthcare professionals. But what exactly does it mean to let all that we do be done with love? As a second year medical student I definitely do not have an answer, but from what I have observed from Christian physicians carrying out whole person care, it means to spend more time with each patient, understanding more about their family, spiritual background and most importantly, praying with and for them.   I believe that having an accountability partner and someone (in the healthcare profession) to disciple us are essentials to shape us to become effective Christian healthcare professionals.

As we return to our respective states and countries, the challenge is in integrating what we have learnt the past 5 weeks into our clinical years/practice and going beyond to inspire fellow healthcare professionals to recognize the critical importance of whole person care. We may be physically and geographically separated, but our hearts beat as one for the Lord. As Christians we are like a garrison in a beleaguered fortress, surrounded by skeptics who inherit their religious shibboleths from their environment, surrounded by temptations that are always difficult to resist…but who said that being a Christian was easy?   I can foresee myself losing faith and becoming overly defensive of my beliefs in the months to come, hence the challenge is to remind myself that the Lord put obstacles in our way for a reason-  He wants us to emerge stronger after gaining victory over each challenge. “Watch, stand fast in the faith, be brave, be strong” 1 Corinthians 16:13.  Further, remembering that I have brothers and sisters in Christ gives me tremendous comfort, as I know that they will be praying for each other regularly.   We each have come a long way. God has purposefully, in the past 5 weeks, made us take detours and caused us to stymie by the stumbling blocks He put in front of us to prepare us as we return to our individual countries. Retrospectively, the past 5 weeks has been invigorating. The road trips to San Diego, Los Angeles, Corona Del Mar, Phoenix, Payson and others drew us close to one another. When we had differences, were apologetic, hurt or disappointed, we did not let that get in our way and in fact these challenges strengthened our friendships. I ask that we each remember the tears that we shed as we depart from Brockton’s. Every drop signifies God’s love for us and our love for one another. John 3:16, my  favourite verse in the Bible states, “For God so loved the world that he gave His only Son…..”.  I challenge each of you to emulate His actions, to love others unconditionally, unreservedly and sacrificially.

Addendum- 30 students from all over the USA and several overseas countries, including Russia,Ukraine, Lebanon, Canada, Honduras attended METs. Most were medical and nursing students.

Victor Lee

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