Christian Surgeons Fellowship

We are a group of surgeons who follow Christ and meet each year for fellowship and encouragement.

What is the Christian Surgeons Fellowship?

Starting out as a small group of Christ-following academic surgeons over twenty years ago, the Christian Surgeons Fellowship has grown steadily over the years and has held annual meetings since 1995. The group initially consisted of Christian surgeons who practiced in academia and wanted to infuse their practice and training of residents with the gospel.  The group has since grown to include surgeons in all types of practice, and we collectively seek to live out the gospel in the context of our work.

Founding members Dr. Tom DeMeester and Dr. Bill Wood explaining how the group got started.

Our Purpose

The purpose of our group is to encourage one another to show the loving care and compassion of our Lord Jesus Christ to the children and families we care for, to our staffs and professional colleagues, to our communities and to the world we are called to serve. We accomplish this with a competent and scientifically sound care that is tempered with biblically-based principals, continually striving to live our lives as a reflection of the image of God while speaking the truth of Christ.

Currently, our annual meetings are the main function of the association, and we greatly enjoy these weekends of camaraderie and encouragement with fellow surgeons who follow Christ.

Below are some of the recent images of our members learning, fellowshipping, and spending time getting to know one another as they navigate the sometimes rough waters of practice and life itself.

Our Mission & Statement of Faith

The purpose of the CMDA Christian Surgeons Fellowship is to show the loving care and compassion of our Lord Jesus Christ to the children and families we care for, to our staffs and professional colleagues, to our communities and to the world we are called to serve. We accomplish this with a competent and scientifically sound care that is tempered with biblically-based principles, continually striving to live our lives as a reflection of the image of God while speaking the truth of Christ.

Strategic Goals for the CMDA Christian Surgeons Fellowship

  1. Hold a Christian gathering for fellowship and encouragement at our annual meeting
  2. Develop a webpage on the CMDA website to provide resources helpful to our mission
  3. Develop a functioning e-community to encourage specialty members to grow in their Christian support for each other
  4. To develop resources and community that will help counter the attacks on Christian families and rights of conscience issues
  5. Encourage and equip others to share the gospel message in their lives and practices
  6. Encourage others to care for the poor in the U.S. and in overseas missions

We, as Christian Surgeons and officers of the Christian Surgeons Fellowship of the Christian Medical and Dental Associations, adhere to the following Statement of Faith and Mission Statement of CMDA:

Statement of Faith

I believe:

  1. In the divine inspiration and final authority of the Bible as the Word of God;
  2. In the eternal God revealed in Holy Scripture as Father, Son and Holy Spirit;
  3. In the unique Deity of Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, whose death and resurrection provide by grace through faith the only means of my salvation;
  4. In the transforming presence and power of the Holy Spirit.

Why Attend a CSF Conference?

A refreshing weekend for Christian surgeons and their spouses

The Christian Surgeons Fellowship is a section of the Christian Medical and Dental Association, and we meet each year to offer renewal and encouragement to Christian surgeons and their spouses.  For more than twenty years, surgeons have found this meeting to be a unique place of refreshment and fellowship with colleagues who share faith in Christ.  The weekend is open to all surgeons and residents in academic or community practice, and spouses are very much encouraged to attend if possible.  We look forward to this time of growing together in our understanding of how to live out the gospel in the practice of surgery.

Our 2018 meeting was held on February 16 to 18 in Indianapolis, Indiana, and it was an encouraging and challenging weekend as we heard from Dr. Russ White, Dr. Keir Thelander, and Joanna Thelander.  The focus of this year's meeting was the need for increased surgical care in low and middle income countries, and the response of surgeons who follow Christ.  We were also encouraged to think on how surgeons in the US can be missional through short-term trips and through faithfulness in our day to day lives.  We shared lots of fellowship and conversation with the other attendees, and left with a feeling of camaraderie with other Christian surgeons and their spouses.

2018 Conference of the Christian Surgeons Fellowship

This year's meeting was held February 16-18, 2018 in Indianapolis, Indiana with speakers Russell White and Keir Thelander


Dr. Russell White
Dr. Russ White was born in the Belgian Congo to medical missionary parents. He attended Roberts Wesleyan College, the University of Michigan School of Medicine, and the Harvard University School of Public Health. He completed a general surgical residency at Brown University and a fellowship in cardiothoracic surgery at Frenchay Hospital in Bristol, England.

Dr. White has served as the chief of surgery at Tenwek Mission Hospital in Kenya since 1997, where he spends the majority of his time. His is a clinical professor of surgery at Brown University School of Medicine in Providence, Rhode Island, USA. He has also been the program director of the Tenwek Hospital General Surgery Residency program since 2007. In this capacity, he works with other consultant surgeons at Tenwek Hospital to train ten surgical residents in a fully approved 5-year general surgical residency. He is also the deputy chairman for the division of examinations and credentialing for the College of Surgeons of East, Central, and Southern Africa, responsible for examination and certification of surgeons in eleven different countries in the region.

He received the American College of Surgeons Humanitarian Surgeon of the Year award in 2012, and was awarded the L’Chaim Prize for medical missions in 2017. His passion is for teaching and mentoring young surgeons. He has special interests in cancer of the esophagus and rheumatic heart disease, and has published extensively in these areas.

PictureDr. Keir Thelander
Keir Thelander was born in Chicago, IL. Growing up in Indianapolis, IN, Keir always planned to become an engineer and so attended Purdue University. During his studies, God redirected him to a different career with more opportunity to interact with people and thus he started preparing for attending medical school. After finishing Purdue University as an electrical engineer in 1995, he began medical school at Indiana University, intending to be a Pediatric Cardiologist.

After his first year of medical school, Keir married his wife, Joanna. With his first exposure to surgery during his third year clinical rotations, Keir fell in love with surgery. Joanna and Keir started his residency in 1999 at Fairview Hospital, Cleveland, OH. During this time, Keir was heavily involved with his church, Grace Church in Middleburg Heights, OH, and became active in CMDA as part of the advisory committee for Northeast Ohio.

Towards the end of residency, after much prayer, it became clear that God was calling Keir to a career in medicine, teaching, and discipleship, but the question was how to combine all of those and where to do so. One evening while taking call at the hospital, Keir received a page from Joanna. She said….”How would you like to go to Africa?” Joanna explained to a startled Keir that an email had been sent out through CMDA asking for a surgeon interested in teaching and passionate about discipling. Over the next few months of correspondence with Dave Thompson, the opportunity to serve for 1 year closed, but God opened the door to serve more long term. In 2006, Joanna and Keir with their two young children moved to Albertville, France for language training. They then moved to Gabon in August of 2006 to begin training and discipling Christian African doctors to become surgeons alongside of Thompson.

In 2008, Keir was named Program Director of Bongolo Hospital’s PAACS program and also became the PAACS Regional Director for West/Central Africa which includes Bongolo Hospital, Mbingo Baptist Hospital (Cameroon), and Galmi Hospital (Niger). In 2016, Keir was selected to become the new Chief Medical Officer of PAACS and in July, 2016 he began that work.

Keir was married to Joanna in 1996 and has two school-age children.

Talks from the 2018 Weekend

Select an audio file below to listen to the conference sessions

Session 1: The Role of Christian Organizations in Global Surgery: A Christian Response to the Lancet - Dr. Keir Thelander

Session 2: Is There a Call to International Surgical Education? - Dr. Kier Thelander

Session 3: The Tension of a Christian Academic Surgeon and the Secular University - Dr. Russ White

Session 4: Choosing Contentment - Joanna Thelander

Session 5: The Importance of Spiritual Development Alongside Surgical Education - Dr. Russ White

Personal Testimonies - Drs. Peter and Olivia Crookes

Session 6: A Reprise: Personal Thoughts from the Frontline - Dr. Russ White, Dr. Keir and Joanna Thelander