CWRU Med Students Practice Faith

 by George Mason

How beautiful that the Christ, who spoke creation into existence, repeatedly spoke healing into the lives of the people He met. It was no accident that the same Lord who uttered the earth, sun and stars into being chose physical healings as His favorite method of displaying the awesome power of His grace. From the leprous, to the palsied, to the blind, lame, and hemorrhaging, our Lord purposefully sought people in the throes of their frailty to bring them to a place of health and wholeness. Why? Because then, as now, hearts and lives seem most open when they?re facing sickness or death.

Some 20 centuries later, the great physician is still in the business of healing hearts and bodies?still in the business of working through frailties to demonstrate his sovereignty. Today he shares this healing work with members of his body strategically placed in the medical, dental, and health care fields. While work in the field of medicine and dentistry has never been more promising, it has never been more complicated and fraught challenges. Thankfully, Christian health care professionals have found an ally in their common struggle against disease, sickness, death and the rigors of a medical career. The ally they have found is the power of God manifest through the ministry of the Christian Medical and Dental Society, CMDS.

Begun in 1931 by a small group of medical students at Northwestern University Medical School in Illinois, CMDS is an international organization with over 14,000 members and student chapters on 96% of our nation?s medical campuses; 63% of our dental campuses. In northeastern Ohio, student chapters can be found on the campus of Case Western Reserve University and the Northeast Ohio College of Medicine. According to Phyllis Nsiah-Kumi, founder and past president of the CWRU CMDS, ?When I arrived at CWRU, there was not an active chapter of CMDS here. So I looked it up on the Internet and what I found was exciting. Medicine as ministry; that was my heart?s cry.? Together with Allan Harmerk, the Midwest Regional Director of the Christian Medical and Dental Society, Phyllis re-established a chapter at Case Western with the help of the Holy Spirit and the backing of a solid core of committed Christian students.

The vision of the founding students was simple: they were to be Christians first and foremost and then use their medical skills for the kingdom. As they saw it, their need was for fellowship, accountability, prayer, and evangelism. Not much has changed since those early days?the goals are virtually identical. What has changed, however, is the size of the group and the effectiveness of their outreach. An example CWRU CMDS vitality and the Lord?s blessing upon the group is the hiring of a full-time area director. And if ever there was a match between background, abilities, desire and job requirements, Scott Phillips, the director is it.

Phillips, whose father was a physician and whose wife Shelly, is beginning her own medical residency program, (this after a 12-year career as a nurse), has been in the thick of the medical field environment for as long as he can remember. After accepting Christ as his savior at age 22, Phillips attended seminary and received his Master of Divinity. With that and his family background and comfort level with physicians and the medical field, he began a career in hospital chaplaincy. Behind it all, the Lord was moving to bring together Scott and the men and women of CMDS to do a mighty work in northern Ohio.

When it comes to work, there are four major areas of CMDS activity: fellowship, evangelism, prayer, and accountability. Of those four, evangelism seems to be the area of greatest promise and impact. This, according to Phillips, is due mainly to status and title. ?The title of Doctor, at least now in this day and age, is still ?magic.? There is a certain authority and status given to men and women who hold that title. People still listen to and trust their doctors. Born again doctors and nurses who wish to use their gift for the kingdom are finding a ready, willing, and listening audience to minister to.? Research bears this out.

In a recent study published in the Journal of Family Practice, 77% of respondents indicated they would like their physicians to consider their spiritual needs; 48% were open, even desirous of having their physicians pray with them. During the initial work up and the patient interview, many physicians are now taking a spiritual as well as physical history. They are asking such questions as, ?Do you have a church you attend??, ?Do you have a pastor you confide in??, ?Is prayer a part of your life?? depending on the answers, some physicians are following up with, ?I happen to believe in the power of prayer in healing and in circumstances such as yours, would you like me to pray with you?? Boldness to be sure, but again, boldness born out of what we know to be true. True not only from the spiritual point of view but also from the medical.

According to Phillips, ?Top medical studies and journals are pointing again and again to the link between spirituality and health. These studies consistently show a positive connection between faith and health. Part of my responsibility and teaching is to demonstrate to physicians and dentists that the data support an approach to health care that includes the almighty.?

How far we have come. In the past it was considered unethical to incorporate one?s morality into a medical practice. Today, however, science has demonstrated beyond a shadow of a doubt that strong faith is conducive to strong health. In fact, a case can be built that failure to incorporate spiritual health into the overall health care plan of a patient is failure to provide complete health care. This is good news for the Christian physician since, not only is it OK to bring Jesus into the health care equation, it is essential!

This wholesale shift in medical thinking, this renewed interest in things spiritual reflects our society?s longing for something of substance, something of meaning, something, or rather, someone you and I know to be Jesus. Responding to this growing national concern and increased visibility on the national level. CMDS will soon open an office in Washington, D.C.. More and more the professionals in CMDS are looked to as the ?go to? people for issues concerning medicine and faith especially in controversial areas such as abortion, stem cell research, cloning, and doctor assisted suicide. While they are viewed as speaking from the Christian medical perspective, their testimony is well received and respected because of how they present it. They are professional people who don?t walk in waiving bibles or wearing huge crosses. They appear primarily to speak as medical professionals and when the opportunity arises, they weave into their testimony a biblical perspective on the medical question up for discussion.

Another area of respect and acceptance is the field of medical missions. There are some countries that would never accept a Christian missionary, yet they will gladly welcome medical professionals. Time and again a team of CMDS physicians and nurses will move about a country ministering to body and soul alike. These open doors are gifts from the Lord and wonderful opportunities to preach the gospel to all the world. An important and popular service feature of CMDS support staff in Bristol, Tennessee is the complete planning and handling of details for physicians wishing to participate in short term mission work.

The Christian Medical & Dental Society is a blessing to the body, the spirit, and the city. How wonderful to see that what began here as a student?s desire to serve her Lord has blossomed into a tree that bears so much fruit.

If you would like additional information about the Christian Medical & Dental Society, or if you are a health care professional interested in being a part of this vibrant ministry, contact Scott Phillips at 440.934.2424, or via e-mail at, cmdsohio@IOL13.com