Lunch Discussions at Siloam

Whole-person care is a word that gets thrown around inside the walls of our clinic daily.  Inspired by the way that Jesus healed in the Gospels, we recognize that when a person is ill, more is ill than only the physical denominators of their health, but their feelings, emotions, heart and spirit also play a part.

Dan Fountain illustrated this brilliantly in an address he gave to the World Congress of the ICMDA in Durban in July 1998, drawing from a case study found in Mark 5: 25-34 – the healing of the woman with the hemorrhage.

Considered unclean by the social structure that surrounded her, her daily condition was one of abandonment, rejection, and despair.  Her life became defined by her illness and her hope for a cure had long been extinguished.  Yet hope was awakened the day that she heard stories about this man named Jesus and the accounts of the way He healed people.  With no other direction out, she knew that she needed to somehow encounter this man for her healing.

One day she hears that He’s passing through her town and she steps outside of the boundaries of what was allowed by her society.  She, unclean, reaches out as Jesus walks by and touches the hem of His garment, instantly healed.

Painting by Howard Lyon

Painting by Howard Lyon

Dan Fountain continues the narrative: “He [Jesus] knew she had been physically healed. We doctors are usually delighted when we have healed someone physically. Could Jesus not be content with that? No, because the woman herself had not been healed; her life had not yet been restored. Jesus wanted to heal her as a whole person, so he called her back to him. As she lay prostrate on the ground before Jesus, waiting to hear words of condemnation, she heard instead two absolutely incredible words [“My daughter…”], and these two words healed her.

… What heals the broken heart and the wounded spirit? What heals the heart is simply a word spoken to the depths of the spirit of the sick person. It is a word that is understood by the spirit of the person in such a way as to resolve the psycho-spiritual pathology – the fear, the conflicts, the anxiety, the guilt, the despair. When this word heals the inner pathology, the whole person can be healed.”

The question is: Is it possible for us to heal our patients in this way?  And if so, how?

Beginning November 18th, Siloam Family Health Center will be featuring a lunch discussion on whole-person care every 3rd Tuesday of the month.  All members of Siloam staff, volunteers, trainees and members of the Nashville medical community are welcome to attend.

An article will be selected that focuses on what it means to offer whole-person care with Dr. Morgan Wills facilitating a discussion around the topic presented.

If you are interested in attending, please RSVP to me at Rachel.lantz@siloamhealth.org to receive the reading for the discussion and bring your lunch to join us while we discuss what it means to offer whole-person care.

This week we will be spending time discussing “The Healing Team” from Dan Fountain’s book God, Medicine, and Miracles.

If you would like to read the full length of his 1998 address, we encourage you to read the article here: http://www.cmf.org.uk/publications/content.asp?context=article&id=694

Looking for opportunities to give yourself to?

We often blog about medicine being a calling…one, to which practitioners are motivated by God’s tug on their life to pursue.  P.K.Lee - MSF in Sierra LeoneUnfortunately, “a not-so-funny thing happens on the way to the forum.”  Their motivation to practice medicine shifts.  As one of my colleagues often states, “many go into medicine to do good, yet come out of medicine to do well.”  Here is an opportunity to do good…and, possibly get back to that original “calling.”

Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) helps people worldwide where the need is greatest, delivering emergency medical aid to people affected by conflict, epidemics, disasters or exclusion from health care. On November 6, 2014, medical and non-medical professionals are invited to a late afternoon presentation from 5-6:30 in Vanderbilt University Medical School’s, Light Hall, Room 208,  to learn more about how they can join Doctors Without Borders’ pool of dedicated aid workers. For readers outside the Nashville, Tennessee area or otherwise unable to make the meeting, more information about opportunities can be found at this link:  http://www.doctorswithoutborders.org/work-with-us

 

Joseph Pearce: Healing through a Fairy-tale

Those who work in healthcare are no strangers to the struggles their patients face in the areas of suffering and addiction. As ones whose work is to heal, we are brushing against the hurt underlying the physical symptoms we diagnose, but how do we navigate the messy waters of another person’s suffering and their methods of coping?

It was G.K. Chesterton who once wrote, “The more truly we can see life as a fairy-tale, the more clearly the tale resolves itself into war with the dragon who is wasting fairyland.” Through the lens of a story, we are often provided an understanding to our own human psychology that provides unprecedented value to our approach to healing.

Joseph-Pearce-@-podium

Joseph Pearce, writer of the recent book, “Bilbo’s Pilgrimage” and Director of the Aquinas Center for Faith and Culture, will be speaking on the connection between Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings series and its way of imaginatively reflecting on reality in a lecture titled, “Suffering, Addiction and Healing in The Lord of the Rings.” This lecture, presented by St. Thomas Health, will be held on October 21st at Saint Cecilia Academy on the Dominican Campus.

If you live in the Nashville area, we encourage you to consider attending Joseph Pearce’s lecture and to be inspired to see the struggles & addictions that you and your patients face in a whole new light.

Please view this flyer for more information about the event and the availability of CME.

Contact mdreger@sth.org for more information and to RSVP.

Medicine: Art or Science?

At our Spring 2014 Fundraising event, Siloam Family Health Center had the pleasure of featuring Wendell Berry speak on “The Health of a Community.”

wendellberrybyguymendes

As a Kentucky farmer, poet, essayist, and novelist, Wendell Berry may seem like an unlikely voice to speak into the matters of health and the work of medicine, but when one leans in to hear him speak, there’s an uncanny sense of insight that unveils the shadows of our modernity and brings truths to light.  His perception introduces a new way of thinking about health, where the body is more than a sum of its parts, like a machine, where the work of medicine is something much more meaningful than the tinkering of that  “machine.”

His essay, “Health is Membership,” explores this idea even more as Wendell Berry wrestles between the art and science of healing.

“I take literally the statement in the Gospel of John that God loves the world.  I believe that the world was created and approved by love, that it subsists, coheres, and endures by love, and that, insofar as it is redeemable, it can be redeemed only by love.  I believe that divine love, incarnate and indwelling in the world, summons the world always toward wholeness, which ultimately is reconciliation and atonement with God.”

With this thought that “health is wholeness,” Wendell proposes the notion that the work of medicine comes from love and can no longer fit within the confines of standardized practice alone—that seeking efficiency within medicine is a deficit when it allies with the paradigm of human health as a science alone, that the work of medicine should come from a place of love if it’s goal is healing in the truest sense of the word.

Delivered as a speech at a conference in Louisville, Kentucky in October 17, 1994, we invite you to read the full essay here.

Lay health workers trained by Siloam students

“I‘m too much glad to see you because you are Nepali.” Greetings like this one from a Nepali man bring joy to 19-year old Anita Nepal who loves helping people in the Nepalese community of Nashville.  Anita, born in a refugee camp in Nepal to Bhutanese parents, was recently trained as a lay health worker by pre-medical students participating in Siloam’s Community Health Immersion program. Nashville’s Nepali community – mostly made up of refugees from Nepal and Bhutan – appreciate the cross-cultural understanding that Anita brings as she teaches within her community on the health topics she recently learned.

“Many of the Nepali people do not understand the health care system in America,” says Anita who works full-time in housekeeping at a local hospital. They struggle to know how to make appointments to see a doctor or how to get medicine from a pharmacy because as Anita says, “… in Nepal there were no appointments or prescriptions…you just show up and ask for what you need.”

“I learned many things – I can help many…”

For Siloam’s six-week Community Health Immersion program, pre-medical students were recruited from around the country to live in a refugee apartment complex in southeast Nashville where they trained nine lay health workers like Anita from the neighborhood. Training topics included preventative care like oral health, nutrition, and exercise, along with health navigation topics like how insurance works and the difference between an emergency room and a primary care clinic. Beyond learning how to teach lay health workers, the pre-medical students also explored how to see the vocation of medicine as a calling and to see how to care for patients as whole persons as Jesus did.

The pre-medical students’ work with the lay health workers is making a lasting impact.  The oral health topic alone made an immediate impact on Anita’s family of five who were resettled a year ago in Nashville after spending 21 years in a refugee camp in Nepal. “We did not know about dental floss or how many times each day to brush our teeth or for how long,” Anita says. “Now we do. I learned many things – I can help many Nepali and Bhutanese people.”

Lay Health Workers and CHI Students pose outside their apartment - 2014 - cropped

Pre-medical students and lay health workers pose outside following a training session. Lay health workers include (L-R) Samson Sarki from Bhutan (in turquoise), Paulos Ezekiel from Eritrea (in purple), and Anita Nepal from Nepal (in blue and red). Pre-medical students (L-R back row) include Will Davies, Stewart Goodwin, Kenny Namkoong, Frances Cobb, Caleb Huber, Will Tucker, along with Reinie Thomas (kneeling), and Lauren Roddy (in blue on right). Pre-medical student Chelsea Travis is behind the lens!

Off with a bang!

It has been quiet this week since our nine CHI participants (7 pre-meds and 2 directors) left town after spending an exciting six-weeks with us on a Community Health Immersion.  As we celebrate our nation’s independence this weekend, let’s also celebrate the ministry of presence that our freedoms allow us to carry out.  Check out this video that the students put together as a celebration of how God is moving in their lives as they prepare to be future physicians:

How Deeply Can You Be Immersed?

Guest blogger Chelsea Travis, one of seven students in this summer’s Community Health Immersion, writes…

Living here in the Highlands Apartments, surrounded by a community of refugees and low-income neighbors, and being a part of an immersion-promoting program – I wonder are we truly immersed? Most would say yes, and I believe that would probably only be 60% right. In some ways, we are immersed. We are living in the same environment as the residents here which include: loud honking car noises at night, a “coins only” laundry mat, new and sometimes reckless drivers riding through the neighborhood, an always occupied soccer field, beautiful rose bushes, roaches, and very active ethnically diverse neighbors and children.

Neighbor children know that fun and attention await them just on the other side of the CHI students' back door.

Neighbor children know that fun and attention await them just on the other side of the CHI students’ back door.

Although we live here, many of us have things that most of these refugees do not. These aren’t simply tangible material items like cars, laptops, smartphones, an installed washer and dryer, or nice business clothes – of which we so often take for granted – but it’s even more than that. It is intangibles like nearby family, education, the ability to speak English with an American accent, our western clothes, and an established, if not assumed, reputation.

Having family nearby, even if they are 600 miles away, is such a great asset especially when compared to family members of refugees who could be thousands of miles away. Since starting this program I have received 2 packages from close family and friends back home that have been so beneficial to me. I cannot imagine not being able to draw from that life line of support because my family is either still in my war-torn country or they are scattered in various places around the world.

We often take for granted our educational experience as well. In this country the expectation is that people, especially young adults, attend college and even some schooling beyond that. The refugees whom we come in contact with actually have an array of educational backgrounds. Some have learned in educational institutions, some were apprentices of their parents or grandparents, and some have simply learned from the school of life.

Overall, it is interesting how education affects a person’s ability to adapt to new situations. It seems that individuals who have been challenged academically or have been conditioned to exercise their intellectual skills (even if only up to the high school level) are more able to adapt and learn new languages and systems. We don’t realize how valuable our education is. If we understood that not everyone in the world is afforded the opportunity to obtain even a high school education, we would not complain and be lazy about classwork, reading assignments, papers, or skill-granting liberal arts classes because we think we “don’t need” that coursework. Foolishness.

Highlands Kids 2 (Chelsea Travis blog)

Chelsea Travis, a recent graduate from the University of North Carolina’s pre-medical program, poses with refugee children in the neighborhood.

Also the fact that we speak English fluently and with clear American accents and wear Western (American) clothing makes us less immersed when compared to the realities of our neighbors. Just the very fact that we possess these attributes causes us to obtain more respect, trust, or even assumed positive reputations. Without anyone really knowing us we probably could receive a loan, purchase a car, or get better job opportunities than our immigrant and refugee neighbors of comparable abilities. This is in part because when people do not adequately speak the dominant language of a society that person’s intellectual abilities are often assumed to be low. These judgments are too often made without even knowing the past professions and careers many of these refugees held in their former home countries – I’ve met former doctors, professors, and innovators.

One thing many of these refugees do have that I wish I could be further immersed in is their drive to survive and to thrive. They are so strong, enduring, humble, and passionate people. They want a better life for themselves, for their families, and for their home countries. I attended an English class being taught by and for Burmese people who wanted to take their U.S. citizenship exam. There were several young women present at this class – one had a baby tied on her back, another nursing a baby in her lap, and two with babies on the couch, and one child playing outside – and they were still so engaged in the class, flipping through their notes and answering questions. I was so inspired! They wanted this English lesson so badly they were not going to let anything distract them. Glory to God what a poignant lesson for my own life!

With everything that a refugee has endured throughout their lives including: wars, persecution, discrimination, and genocide, we will never be truly immersed enough to understand life in their shoes.