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“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9, NIV 1984).
“But I trust in you, O Lord; I say, ‘You are my God.’ My times are in your hand” (Psalm 31:14-15, ESV). It is always nice to see God’s successes when you’re an oncologist. On his recent evaluation, Rob Fortner demonstrated no trace of myeloma. We had treated him with standard chemotherapy followed by an autologous stem cell transplant. After completing his exam, I asked him, “How long has it been since your transplant, two years?” He smiled, “No, it was 2013 (seven years).” I sat there stunned that time and life had passed so quickly. Nine years with all of the intense moments, all the life stories, all the joy, all the tears. Gone in a blink.
“But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us” (2 Corinthians 4:7, NIV 1984). He walked into the room with a smell that preceded him. Short, thin, with a scraggly gray beard, he looked like a homeless addict who had neglected his health until it was almost too late. But he was not intimidated by the large tumor on his forehead. He spoke clearly and intelligently as I recorded his medical history. When I began to discuss therapy for his cancer, he said, “I’ll try the treatment, but I’m not afraid of this. I’m a Christian.” I told him I was as well. As he left, I placed my hand on his shoulder and prayed for him. He then said, “Let me pray for you.” He placed his hand on my shoulder and lifted me to the Lord. My nurse sprayed the room for the odor after he had gone.
“The Samaritan woman said to him, ‘You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?’ (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.)” (John 4:9, NIV 1984). This was not the first time I’d felt the anger of racial injustice, but it was the most surprising. Lorenzo had been my patient for 20 years. He was doing better and living longer with his myeloma than anyone I had ever treated. He and I are friends.
“Some men came, bringing to him a paralytic, carried by four of them…” (Mark 2:3, NIV 1984). I was over working at my computer when my clinical secretary called, “Guess who’s here?” No idea. “Mrs. Kushman. You took care of her husband.” I drug myself away from sterile technology and went to greet her. It had been four years, and now she was in our oncology clinic with her father. She told me her mother had cancer as well. I greeted her with an elbow bump and lowered my mask where she could see me. “How are you doing?” I asked. “Okay,” she said with her words, but not her eyes. “Do you have anyone to support you while you are going through this? Do you have a church?” She stood solidly on her faith in Christ and told me her pastor and church members were standing with her through the struggle.
“If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there… even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast…even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you” (Psalm 139:8-12, NIV 1984).
“…There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus” (Romans 3:22-24, NIV 1984).
“…that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death” (Philippians 3:10, ESV). Amanda has been a dear friend for many years. She’s been a Christian all the years I have known her, but she had drifted from her devotion to God. Her sister-in-law is a Catholic Christian dedicated to Christ. Not long ago, Amanda watched her sister-in-law carry the staggering weight of her husband’s death with an unwavering trust in God. Amanda has now returned to a close walk with God and has found Him best within the Catholic Church. It is beautiful to see. What is more, Amanda’s son, a recalcitrant drug user, has followed her to faith in Christ, and he has been drug free for four years. Last weekend, we met Amanda and her husband in New Orleans for a short escape and attended the 9 a.m. mass at St. Louis Cathedral. The priest’s prayer for the suffering that morning included, “May they join their suffering with the suffering of Christ.”
TODAY'S CHRISTIAN DOCTOR
It is no exaggeration for me to say CMDA has had an influential impact on my adult spiritual life. Since 1999, I have been active with CMDA in one way or another. In 2017, my work with the New York City chapter was significantly increasing, and I found myself more interested in ministry activities than even my own private practice in surgery. After a couple years of praying and planning, I officially began my full-time ministry as the NYC Area Director on March 1, 2020. There was no way humanly possible we could have foreseen what would occur in NYC that same month.
“Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.” —Psalm 51:10, ESV It must start with us. Many things have been laid bare this year. In late 2019, a novel Coronavirus referred to as SARS-CoV-2 originating in Wuhan, Hubei, China spread to the United States becoming a global pandemic. By mid-July of this year, there were close to 13 million confirmed COVID-19 cases worldwide, with around six million active cases affecting more than 200 countries. In the United States, there have been more than three million COVID-19 cases (with more than one million recovered) and more than 500,000 deaths. We would soon learn that African Americans—who make up 13 percent of the U.S. population—disproportionately comprise U.S. COVID-19 fatalities, with many having underlying health conditions such as diabetes, hypertension and asthma. Income and wealth inequalities also tend to create greater disparities within communities of color, making access to adequate healthcare and healthy living an elusive and unaffordable necessity.
Pornography is any medium that depicts erotic behavior and is intended to entice sexual imagination. Pornography has no beneficial use but damages human relationships. Mass communication technologies such as the Internet have expanded its reach to an unprecedented degree. Video and virtual reality have intensified its content. The introduction of sex robots that imitate human speech and sexual behaviors and are designed to perform sexual acts with humans are an extreme elaboration of pornography. All of these have dangerous psychological, social, and spiritual consequences.
It has been said that the best way to learn about our future is to look to our past. A historical reflection on the actions of those who have gone before us can both guide us toward monumental successes and deter us from repeating colossal mistakes. A glance to history may reveal progressive social and technological advancements, yet it also affirms that the basic principles of a man’s heart remain unchanged. As Proverbs reminds us, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death” (Proverbs 14:12).
Am I essential? As general dental professionals, we do not imagine many of you have asked yourselves this question. By choosing dentistry as a profession, it is safe to assume a certain level of job security and financial stability. Though both of those factors may have been initial lures into the field, what inspires us daily to practice dentistry is the impact we have in the lives of our patients, each created in the image of God. As dentists, all that we work to achieve is essential to the health and well-being of our respective communities. And yet, in the midst of the Coronavirus global pandemic, it feels like oral healthcare was deemed non-essential. States recommended dentists limit their offices to emergency patients only. No handpieces were running. No cavitrons were cleaning. Some dentists were even finding themselves unemployed! Oral healthcare seemed low on the priority list, and any momentum we had made in terms of advocating prevention felt lost.
Few of us trained to treat sick communities and continents. Unfortunately, that is our task during a pandemic. The origin of the word comes from the Greek pandemos, where pan means everyone and demos means population. Pandemics confront us with not just one sick individual but with hundreds of thousands of ill patients. The responsible pathogen overwhelms both individual immune systems and community healthcare systems. The toll is individual and collective.
The question of suffering is a big one in depression, since suffering can lead to depression, and depression itself is suffering. We are fortunate to live in a society that is largely insulated from suffering, compared to other places and times where people have had to grapple with the daily reality of illness, death, poverty or war. As a consequence, we are fearful of any kind of suffering.