Betsy Shirley 02-01-2016

Nia Zalamea is a board-certified general surgeon. After five years in a traditional medical practice in rural Virginia, she joined the Church Health Center, an organization in Memphis, Tenn., that seeks to reclaim the biblical commitment to care for our bodies, minds, and spirit. She is one of two general surgeons in the U.S. who does full-time charitable work.

1. Why did you leave traditional medical practice? I went into medicine to serve; it was the one craft and skillset I could offer to an individual in front of me. But after five years, I found out that I wasn’t actually living my mission; I had put five people into bankruptcy. What I saw in rural America was that even one operation could completely derail not just one generation but multiple generations. Not just in terms of economics, but in terms of social capital, education, and everything we know that affects health and medical care.

2. What exactly does the Church Health Center do? The Church Health Center is a medical wellness home for the underserved, the uninsured, and the underinsured of Memphis. We provide surgery on a sliding scale; if someone can’t afford the surgery, it gets written off. The hospital supports the surgery in not charging the hospital fee, which is a huge chunk of the cost. So it’s not free, but the out-of-pocket cost for the patient is extremely low. We just make it affordable.

3. What are some of the barriers that prevent your patients from having access to health care? We have ongoing workshops during open enrollment to get people on to Affordable Care Act plans, but what is deemed “affordable” is not always affordable; the majority of my patients are 150 to 200 percent below the poverty line. Another barrier is access: Just because you have an insurance card doesn’t mean the doctor will see you. And this is where a lot of the injustice lies; many doctors’ offices and businesses have closed their doors to new Medicaid patients. Finally, the Affordable Care Act doesn’t cover everyone; my patients include undocumented immigrants, refugees, and patients from other countries whose children are being treated nearby at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

Molly Marsh 04-01-2015

Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End by Atul Gawande 

Paul Farmer 12-11-2013

How liberation theology can inform public health.

Trevor Barton 10-16-2012
Offering hands, Antonov Roman/

Offering hands, Antonov Roman/

This morning, Madu walked the one kilometer path from his village to my house. He is married to Sirima and they have two children: four-year-old Sira, who they call Bonnie, and two-year-old Musa, who they call Papa. He told me that Papa had burned his hand and wrist in the morning cooking fire.

Maybe the path to civility and peace can be found somewhere along the path from my house to Madus village.

Do you have any medicine for a burn? he asked.

There is a hospital in our small town on the southwestern edge of Mali, but its small staff of doctors serve a large population of people without the use of technology, electricity, or even running water. Many times people come to me for help and healing before they go to the hospital because I have free first aid supplies, a generator, and a deep water well. I consulted my ragged copy of Where There Is No Doctor and turned to the section on the treatment of burns.

Rachel Marie Stone 09-04-2012

Every so often I hear the insinuation that women (like me) who advocate for "normal" childbirth are inordinately self-focused (even selfish) and that women who are dissatisfied with the treatment they’ve received in hospitals during labor are “uncheerful” and, possibly — according to the women in controversial pastor Douglas Wilson’s life — confused theologically.

Don’t get me wrong: Ricki Lake’s memoir, at least as it concerns childbirth, definitely looks at the birth experience as if it is all about her. But while there’s no question that medical advances (and, yes, c-sections!) save lives, it’s also hard to contest the fact that medical interventions occur at rates that are simply unjustified.

September 3 (Labor Day) launched “Empowered Birth Awareness Week,” which, sponsored by, aims to raise people’s consciousness concerning the notion of “evidence-based maternity care,” the less than radical notion that what happens during birth (ie, continuous fetal monitoring, mandatory IVs, NPO rules that prohibit eating and drinking) should be medically indicated, not routine, and supported by sound medical research.

Derek Flood 07-26-2012

Biblical literalism, and the corresponding idea of the inerrancy of scripture, has been bumping up against the sciences for a long time.

Way back in the Renaissance, the church insisted that the Bible taught that the sun revolved around the earth, and charged Galileo with heresy for claiming otherwise. Today, the debate between the Bible and natural science continues, most notably in the evolution/creation debate.

While discussions of religion and science usually revolve around conflicts with natural science, I'd like to propose that the place we really should be placing our attention is the relationship between faith and the social sciences.

As our understanding of all science grows, it becomes harder and harder to maintain the position of biblical literalism without seeming absurd.

Maybe we haven't all heard the thunder clap yet, but the lightning bolt struck a while ago. We are going to have to adjust our reading of the Bible to coincide with a modern scientific understanding of the universe. In broad strokes, that shift has already happened.

QR Blog Editor 07-04-2012

A new survey of medical patients found that prayer — with their physician — is for many an important part of the treatment process.

According to American Medical News:

About two-thirds of patients believe doctors should know about their spiritual beliefs, said a survey of nearly 500 adults from Florida, North Carolina and Vermont in the January 2003 Journal of General Internal Medicine.

One in five patients likes the idea of praying with the doctor during a routine office visit, while nearly 30 percent want to do so during a hospital stay, the study found. Half of patients would want to pray with the doctor in a near-death scenario.

About 75 percent of physicians say patients sometimes or often mention spiritual issues such as God, prayer, meditation or the Bible, said an April 9, 2007, article in Archives of Internal Medicine.

The question of whether it is appropriate for doctors to pray with patients was addressed in late May at a three-day conference organized by the University of Chicago Program on Medicine and Religion.

G. Richard Holt, MD, MPH, a recently retired otolaryngologist, gave a presentation reviewing his perspective as a head-and-neck surgeon.

During his 40-year career, Dr. Holt received about one or two prayer requests a month. He made it his practice to remain silent while the patient, a family member or religious leader prayed aloud. But Dr. Holt drew the line at initiating or leading prayer.

Read the article in its entirely HERE.

Elizabeth Palmberg 01-01-2012

"I think it is a spiritual task to struggle with questions such as what and who we place at the center of our economy"

Peter Maybarduk 12-01-2011

The U.S. should put publicly funded medicines in reach of the world's poor.

Debra Dean Murphy 08-29-2011

When our ideas about nature come primarily from Sierra Club calendars or selected snippets from Thoreau, an east coast earthquake and monster hurricane (in the same week) are powerful wake-up calls.

We modern urban dwellers and suburbanites like our nature contained and manageable: a nice hike in the woods; a pretty sunset on the drive home; a lush, green lawn (chemically-induced, alas)

Sometimes we like nature so much we decide to worship it -- or to make it the medium for our worship of God or the "higher power" we think might be up there, out there, presiding over it all. We've been wounded by organized religion, perhaps, disgusted by its hierarchies and hypocrisies. "I can worship God on a mountaintop," we decide. (Or -- conveniently, happily -- on the golf course).

Claire Lorentzen 06-28-2011
Scott Kinder-Pyle is a Presbyterian pastor in Spokane, Washington, and the featured poet in Sojourners' July issue.
Within the American news cycle, the front-and-center story about Egypt has three areas of interest: What will it mean for Egypt?
LaVonne Neff 12-02-2010
A lot of us don't have as much disposable income as we had two or three years ago. Some of us have a lot less. But Christmas is coming, and we still want to give.
Jim Wallis 09-21-2010
The world needs President Barack Obama to be a global leader on HIV/AIDS.
Ernesto Tinajero 06-01-2010
There are long stories and short stories. Stories that people in a hundred years will be talking about, and stories that will fade in a few months.
Jennifer Wheeler 04-12-2010
The legal definition of Child Support is "periodic monetary payments by the non-custodial parent for the care of his or her minor child." In our country, non-custodial parents are usually obligat
Ernesto Tinajero 03-03-2010
I have been reluctant to write about health care recently.
Heidi Thompson 12-17-2009

At a recent holiday party, I tried to describe my hometown of Warren, Ohio.

"Warren?" I said. "Well, it's a lot like Detroit. With none of the perks."

Ernesto Tinajero 12-02-2009
What to do as a Christian when presented with an injustice? I missed.
Ruth Hawley-Lowry 12-01-2009
December 1 is World AIDS Day. December 1 is also the day that Rosa Parks refused to yield her seat on a bus in Montgomery.