Dr. Clive O. Callender on Spiritual Health and Physical Well-Being
To me my whole life has been full of miracles because for example when I was 15 I contracted tuberculosis and I was in the hospital for 18 months. I had surgery and they took out half of my right lung. At that time tuberculosis was like the AIDS of today. There was no treatment for it so it was really not much hope for me living a longer life than maybe 2 to 5 years and so miraculously the consequence with medical developments and the surgery I had and God's blessing, here I am some 60 years later I'm still living and thriving. I did go to Africa as a missionary doctor in 1970 and 1971 so that my impossible dreams have all come true. So I can say that every aspect of my life has been impacted by my spirituality and my belief.
Everything I've done since I was 7 revolved around spirituality and becoming a physician and eventually, I became a medical missionary or surgeon. So there is nothing that I've done in my career -- and this year represents 50 years as a physician -- that was not impacted by my spirituality and my belief that Jesus Christ came to the world to save the world. Everything I do as a consequence with all the patients I see, with all of the surgeries I perform with everything, is impacted by that.
It's God who does the healing and I am his instrument and so I am a physician who assists in the healing process. So now I think one of the interesting experiences I've had along these lines didn't necessarily increase my spirituality, but did validate what I live for as a transplant surgeon. I do and did liver and kidney transplants and we had a patient about 25 or 30 years ago who had end-stage liver disease. This patient had such a severe hepatitis caused by a viral illness that we felt that he was incurable and so we thought about the consequence of a transplant. Unfortunately, the viral disease was so overwhelming and he was a religious person and so the officers of his church came and anointed him and laid hands on him and this is not an uncommon practice at Howard University but we decided that there was nothing else we could do for him.
Now you have to keep in mind this patient was on a respirator and a ventilator and we considered him almost brain dead and we believed that there wasn't anything else we could do. So what we did thereafter was to begin to decrease our treatment as we do with patients to allow them to die. As we withdrew our treatment, he kept getting better. Then within a week to 10 days he walked out of the hospital. It was a very exciting thing for me to run into him on the Metro and share the experience that God had saved him and blessed his life when we could do nothing for him.
One of the important things that I realized in my career is that I should not be proselytizing to my patients and so I have always respected whatever my patient's faith is. Whether or not they choose to have a Bible in the bed with them, I still pray for them. I don't necessarily pray with them unless they ask me to do so, but, it has been something that I have recognized is an important part of the health process. That's what my daily prayer sessions are about, what I should do next, how I should operate, if I'm operating in a difficult spot, I pray that God helps me and shows me the way.
I have always recognized that from Imhotep, the first physician, to all of the African antiquities and Egyptian's religion, spirituality all were a part of healing. It wasn't until the European advent that spirituality was actually taken out of the realm of healing, so it is appropriate, for example, that Howard University and the Hospital for the last 150 years to bring spirituality back through the recognition of holistic medicine. The body, mind, and spirit have to be together in order for you to be well.
There is no health without a union of the body, the mind, and the spirit. When I define health or wellness, I define it as an unobstructed journey to fulfill your life's goal. In order to achieve balance you have to have the body, mind and spirit must function together as one. I recognize that among physicians there are divisions – where medical doctors and physicians are called allopathic physicians, those who work with the natural elements are called naturopathic. In order to have the practice of holistic medicine we have to have all of those elements together.
I believe that there is a place for the natural and a place for the supernatural, as well as a place for what is garden-variety medicine. But life and death is in the hand of God and so I try to do my very best job. I wasn't always that wise -- my first 10 years I wasn't that smart and sometimes thought that I had the power. I learned that what I needed to do was my very best and that's what I teach all my students. After you've done the very best you can, put it in the hands of the Lord.