As a medical student, I knew I had wanted to integrate my faith into medicine somehow, but didn’t know how to go about doing it nor the ethical ramifications of spiritual care. I had this irrational fear that if someone was to walk in while I was praying with a patient that I would be kicked out of my medical school (which is not true)! During my internal medicine rotation as a third year medical student, I encountered a patient with new onset cancer, and felt helpless after our team had given the patient and family the diagnosis. How do we offer hope in a situation like this? Eventually I did find out that the patient was a Christian, and ended up praying with him, but my insecurities about practicing spiritual care stuck with me.
Before the end of the rotation, I started looking into spiritual care training programs, and came across the Whole Person Care Preceptorship. This seemed like just what I was looking for, a Christian program training healthcare students in spiritual care. Though I had to juggle a few rotations around, I was grateful that my school (and God!) was able to work with me on the details about scheduling the Preceptorship as an elective 4th year rotation that summer. I was so grateful to have participated in this that summer.
Not only did I meet like-minded Christians that had become friends and mentors for life, but also the spiritual care practices I had learned during the Preceptorship revolutionized the way I practiced medicine. I had learned that it was ethical to practice spiritual care with permission, and also how helpful whole person care was across many disciplines and patient populations and backgrounds. I feel like God continually surprise me how He uses spiritual care to touch and mend patients’ lives, both Christian and non-Christian ones, Hallelujah!
Janet Ma, MD
UCLA Internal Medicine-Pediatrics
Assistant Clinical Professor of Medicine