Spirituality And Healing – Part 2

In May 2000 Cathy and I joyfully packed our belongings in Clearwater, Florida and moved to Fayetteville, Arkansas where I was to become one of four medical directors of the Wound Care Clinic of Washington Regional Medical Center. This was to be my first experience in full time wound care having been a general surgeon for 35 years and doing wound care and hyperbaric medicine as a secondary profession. The other 3 directors were actively practicing general surgeons.

The nursing director of the clinic was Diana Gallagher, RN who was very knowledgeable in the field and well respected by her peers in the nursing and wound care field. I learned the general protocol of the hospital from her and others while learning specific wound care principles and the multitude of wound dressing usages from her experience. She was a very able teacher while managing the clinic in a firm but caring manner. The hospital administration had given me permission to continue praying with patients when appropriate and did not object for me to engage patients in spiritual conversations. To my knowledge no other physician had interacted in this manner with patients in this clinic. My impression after about 6 months was most of the nurses encouraged and appreciated what I was doing while a very few were skeptical and perhaps even a little turned off. However, no one was openly critical to me.

In my second year as director I was invited by Mrs. Gallagher to speak in a conference for which she was the conference leader. It was to be held in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The conference was sponsored by the South Central Region of the Wound, Ostomy, and Continence Nurses, and she asked me to speak on Spirituality and Healing. I prepared for several months utilizing information from scientific journals, anecdotal stories concerning specific miraculous healings and personal experiences from my lengthy surgical career.

Several days prior to the conference I began having symptoms of an upper respiratory tract infection and developed chills and fever. I knew Diana was counting on me for the presentation and was not going to cancel unless I was unable to speak. Cathy drove the 2 hours to Tulsa allowing me to rest as much as possible. My part on the program was in the early afternoon. Despite having fever and a very hoarse voice I was able to deliver the 45 minute speech, but I don’t remember much about the details of the events.

In my speech I attempted to answer 4 general questions regarding faith and healing; 1) Is God actively involved in healing today or is healing a natural process which was activated in the beginning? 2) What role does faith play in healing? 3)How is personal faith mobilized to activate healing? and 4) What should be my role as a health care provider in the process? I tried to interweave examples from the Bible of some of the miraculous healings in the Old and New Testaments with examples of healings I had eye-witnessed.

In my research I discovered the New Testament contains more than 75 references of the healing work of Jesus. The four gospels record more instances of healing by Christ than his preaching or teaching. In many examples of healing Jesus said to the one healed, “Your faith has made you well.” A great deal of data published in current scientific journals have shown people of faith have fewer illnesses and recover faster from serious illnesses with fewer complications than people who profess no religious affiliations.

It was interesting for me to find a journal article from Johns Hopkins University concerning church attendance and health. In a study involving over 90,000 people in Washington County, Maryland if people attended church 1 or more times per week they had a lower death rate from coronary artery disease, emphysema, cirrhosis and suicide. Another study from Dartmouth Medical School concluded the survival rate in elderly people undergoing open heart surgery was 3 times greater in regular church attenders than non-church attenders.

Modern science has only recently acknowledged the therapeutic benefits of prayer in healing. One of the first articles published in a recognized medical journal was in 1988 in the Southern Medical Journal written by Dr. Randolph Byrd. He concluded of the 393 heart patients in an ICU who had intercessory prayer over them had fewer complications, required less medication and had fewer deaths. Skeptics of his study and similar papers maintained there was no way to gauge the extent of prayer offered and the same results could have been achieved by chance. Those who are opposed to any positive effects of faith in healing will never be convinced otherwise. The Bible says, “Their eyes have been blinded by the God of this world.” (II Cor. 4: 3,4)

In concluding the presentation I challenged the attendees to consider their own beliefs in the Lord Jesus Christ and His claims regarding faith and physical health. I further asked they might begin praying with patients and open the door to discussion with patients of the correlation between spiritual and physical health.

By the time I finished the presentation my throat was so swollen I could barely speak, and my voice so hoarse I don’t see how they could understand what I was saying. The audience was so moved by my feeble efforts to finish they gave me a standing ovation for which I was shocked. In retrospect it was foolish for me to be there, because I certainly must have contaminated the entire conference with an influenza virus. At least I knew Cathy was praying for me, and within a few days I had recovered. I have no way of knowing how many attendees at the meeting developed the flu, but if any perhaps they applied some of the principles I tried to teach.

Dr. John

Spirituality and Healing – Part 1

I am grateful for the heritage of my family and the positive influence for healing they provided for many years . My grandfather Dr. John Aaron Moore was a family physician in El Dorado, Arkansas for most of his medical practice life dating back to 1898. He was joined in his practice in 1934 by my Dad Dr. Berry Lee Moore Sr. (Pop), and the two of them served the people of El Dorado until my grandfather’s death in 1943. Pop was joined in his practice by my brother Dr. Berry Lee Moore, Jr. (Bubba) in 1957, and they served their community until 1966 when Pop died of heart failure. Upon completion of my training in 1971 I joined Bubba in his practice and continued serving as a surgeon in our hometown until 1999 when Cathy and I were called to serve for a year in Florida at a newly opened medical clinic of First Baptist Church of Indian Rocks. We moved back to Arkansas in 2000 to Fayetteville where I served in the field of wound care. We moved again in 2005 to Branson, Missouri to serve in a wound clinic until 2011 when I retired from the practice of medicine. Cathy and I continue serving the Lord through our First Baptist Church and as chaplains at The Free Medical Clinic.

Cathy and I were faithful church members in El Dorado during our children’s early years, and we purposed to raise our family according to Christian principles. We were living in our own strength and power, because we had not received the transforming power of the Lord Jesus Christ through His salvation. This all changed in August, 1977 when we received Christ into our lives and hearts. (A Shopping Trip To Dallas, Aug. 2012).

Prior to my conversion I had acknowledged only one experience which I attributed to a supernatural divine healing. I wrote about this event which occurred in 1973 in a previous blog (We’ve Done Everything Except Pray, Aug. 2012). My eyes were simply not open to the healing power of Christ which had been all around me. Not only were my eyes opened in 1977, but I had a loving wife who was encouraging me and a wonderful brother who began mentoring me. He taught me to begin living “not as a physician who happened to be a Christian, but as a Christian who happened to work in the medical field.” The difference between those two lifestyles is huge.

Bubba challenged me to pray with every patient prior to taking them into the operating room, and as much as possible to bring Christ and His healing power into every conversation. He emphasized every appointment with every patient was a divine appointment and to view it as otherwise could result in missing God’s purposes. My initial experiences of praying with patients were awkward and at times embarrassing, but I persisted knowing this was what God desired of me. In time it became easier, more natural and then established as a lifestyle of my relationship with patients. I always asked permission before praying, and over the next 35 years only had 2 people refuse to allow me to pray with them. One was a Jehovah’s Witness, and the other was a Baptist pastor’s wife who had just had a miscarriage and was angry at God at the time. I had many patients tell me I was the first doctor who ever offered to pray with them.

The more I allowed God to use my skills while acknowledging He was the healer, the more widely He opened doors of ministry for me. Conversations with patients were opened to speak about deeper needs they faced other than the obvious physical ones. It was not that the physical became less significant, but so many were having emotional and spiritual needs and seemed to have no one with whom they could share their burden. Men and women who may have been church attenders but never considered their personal relationship with Christ were being asked to discuss these sensitive issues. Not everyone responded, but some did. I did not discern any who were offended and had no one say, “I am coming to you for surgical help not religious talk.” Perhaps they did not want to offend their surgeon before he worked on them, but I do not believe this to be the case.

I witnessed people bow their heads in humility to invite Christ into their life to save them and others, while not going this far were openly speaking about their faith. Up to this point in my career I had never been associated with another physician except Bubba who had conversations with their patients along these lines. I knew this was not unique, because I was reading testimonies in spiritual journals of other doctors who were doing the same thing. Two other doctors in El Dorado, Dr. Jim Weedman and Dr. Jean Wise had the same burden for their patients, and I was being encouraged by several pastors whom I knew very well.

The scope of my surgical practice opened the door for Cathy and me to move to Florida for one year. Dr. Charlie Martin, pastor of The First Baptist Church of Indian Rocks was opening a family medical clinic as a ministry of the church, and he asked me to become their first director. After moving there in 1999, the church ordained me as a minister of the gospel. In addition to my medical duties I was involved in teaching Sunday school, preaching on occasion from the pulpit, church visitation in the hospital and performing baptisms with the other 10 pastors. I wrote about our experiences in Florida in 2 blog posts (God Will Make A Way, Part 1 & 2, Apr. 2016). Cathy and I believed our ministry was completed the following year, and we moved to Fayetteville, Arkansas for me to become one of the directors of the Wound Clinic at Washington Regional Medical Center.

To be continued —-

Dr. John

My Surgical Mentor

Dr. C.E. Tommey

Throughout my surgical career of 35 years I had the privilege of observing and operating with some of the finest surgeons in the South. My initial experience in the operating room was as a teen assisting my Dad (Pop) with a few of his operative procedures. Those were the days prior to the explosion of lawsuits for medical malpractice. Although Pop was careful to not allow me to do anything which exceeded my skill set, I was unlicensed and by today’s standard unqualified to participate in any procedure. Pop’s permission extended through my high school and college years, and by the time I enrolled in medical school I was far more skilled in OR techniques than most interns and many junior surgical residents. I was certain of my career path from the first day Pop allowed me to assist him.

For the last 2 years of medical school each student rotated through the surgical service for 3 months of every year. We were taught the skills of sterile technique in the OR and were allowed to scrub, gown and glove to stand at the operating table while only observing the surgeons and their assistants at work. I saw all the surgical residents and many of the interns operating while quietly longing to have an active role in certain procedures with which I had personal experience. I remained quiet about my skills until on one occasion I was asked to assist an intern on an appendectomy while the resident only watched. I was placing sutures and tying knots faster than the intern, and the anesthesiologist Dr. Ronnie Lewis sarcastically asked me, “Hey you, where did you learn to do all that?” When I told him my Dad, Dr. Berry Moore had been teaching me for years, the doctor was astounded. The reason was because he was preparing to enter private practice in El Dorado, and he wanted me to give a good report on him to Pop. (Even though he had previously been pretty rough on me!) In the intervening years while I was working with Dr. Lewis, I would occasionally remind him of the account. His only response was, “I was just young and too cocky for my own good.”

During my 4 years of surgical training at Charity Hospital in New Orleans I participated in or performed several thousand procedures. I worked with at least 8 surgeons who were in private practice in New Orleans and countless other men and women who were in training. A few of them stand out in my mind concerning their diagnostic and technical skills. One of the best surgeons I worked with was Dr. Lewis Crow who was 2 years ahead of me in training. I assisted him on 8 to 10 procedures which were of such magnitude I never forgot his speed and accuracy of performance. He later had a surgical practice in Little Rock, and I was able to refer a number of very difficult cases to him which he handled extremely well.

When I began my practice in El Dorado in 1971 I was in the office of my brother Berry Lee (Bubba). I continued with him for 2 years although for the referral practice I desired this was not ideal. He was a general medical doctor, and it was not best for him to take time away from his practice to assist me in the OR. In 1974 I was invited to join with 3 other surgeons, Dr. David Yocum, Dr. C.E. Tommey and Dr. Bill Scurlock to form The Surgical Clinic of South Arkansas. That was one of my best professional decisions. In the following years we added Dr. Moises Menendez and Dr. Robert Tommey (son of Dr. C.E.) to our clinic staff.

Over the next 25 years I had the privilege of working in the Surgical Clinic with these surgeons who were not only accomplished surgeons but were men of outstanding character. I was able to either assist each one in the OR at one time or another or have them assist me on a surgical case. The one who had a greatest influence on me regarding my skill development and my interaction with patients apart from my brother Berry Lee was Dr. C.E. Tommey.

Dr. Tommey moved to El Dorado in the early 1950’s with his wife Clara and their children. He immediately joined with Dr. Yocum to establish their long career together. Dr. Tommey had trained in the Cleveland Clinic prior to entering military service for 2 years in the United States Army. He had no family ties to El Dorado but had connected with Dr. Yocum as a result of an earlier friendship in medical school. Dr. Scurlock joined them in the mid 1960’s after he completed his military obligation.

Dr. Tommey (Dr. Eldon) was a quiet man of few words. When you could engage him in a lengthy conversation he had a witty personality with an infectious laugh. One of the funniest professional stories I love telling involved him and his nurse Reba McDuffie. (Training A Home Care Giver, Aug. 2013) . I never heard him being critical of any person and in particular of another physician. Over the course of 25 years we certainly were eye-witnesses to situations and heard conversations which could have led to judgement and condemnation, but one never heard those words from him.

He was a tireless worker who was never late nor absent from a responsibility. One particular 4th of July weekend he and I were the only surgeons in town, and he was on ER call on Friday and I was on call for Saturday. We agreed to assist each other on those days, and it was the busiest weekend of my 35 year career. We did 11 emergency cases on Friday and 12 cases on Saturday! As I write this I am still amazed at our endurance. To my remembrance all of the 23 patients recovered from their problems.

His diagnostic skills were superb, and I frequently consulted with him when I had a puzzling or difficult diagnostic case. Often just his presence in one of my patient’s room would bring them comfort and peace because of his reputation. By far he was the best known surgeon in El Dorado during those years.

His dress and appearance was always professional and elegant. When we learned about tailor-made Tom James suits, he and I began purchasing them at the same time, and I always knew when he had a new one. Only a very few times did I ever see him in casual dress, and it just didn’t seem natural.

Dr. Eldon was a strong Christian witness, and he and Clara were faithful members of First Baptist Church. He was active in Sunday school as a member of The Men’s Bible Class and participated in many other activities of the church as he was able. He was appointed and served as a deacon of the church for many years and was elected Chairman of Deacons on more than one occasion.

His humility was characterized by a conversation I heard in the operating room while assisting him on a particularly difficult case. One of the experienced scrub nurses, Mrs. Gunter asked him, “Dr. Tommey, how do you keep from making mistakes in the operating room?” He replied, “By gaining experience.” Mrs. Gunter continued, “And how do you gain experience?”, to which he replied, “By making mistakes!”

Dr. Tommey lived a long life and served the people of El Dorado with skill and loving kindness. He retired from his surgical practice in the late 1990’s but continued working in the wound care clinic for another 10+ years. He completely retired from medicine around 2010 because of health reasons. After we moved away from El Dorado in 1999 I was able to visit him in his home on several occasions when Cathy and I were in town to see our children and grandchildren.

This past January 13 I decided to call him on his 98th birthday, and his care giver gave him the phone. Although it was obvious he was weak we were able to have about a 10 minute conversation which included recounting some interesting and funny experiences we shared for those 25 years. At the close of the conversation I said to him, “Dr. Tommey, I love you and have counted it a great honor to have worked with and learned from you all those many years!” His reply was typical and brief, “John, I loved working with you.” The next morning I received a surprising call from his son, Dr. Robert who asked, “Did you call and talk with my Dad yesterday?” When I replied yes Robert said, “He passed away and entered heaven early this morning.”

I have frequently written about the tremendous temporal and eternal impact my brother Berry Lee (Bubba) had on me and my family. There has never been another one comparable to him. But in field of surgery Dr. Charles Eldon Tommey was my greatest mentor in regards to surgical technique, and in the way to live life while treating others as Jesus would. (Matthew 5:16)

Dr. John