|asketball was my greatest passion in high school. My quest for improved performance on the court led me in a pursuit of better health. In contrast to some of my teenaged friends, I discovered health principles in Counsels on Diet and Foods and other books authored by Adventist Church cofounder Ellen G. White—as well as through Bible study—which, as I put into practice, also improved my game. These principles included physical as well as spiritual health laws such as spending a thoughtful hour each day contemplating the life of Christ. Early on I learned the importance of the connection between physical and spiritual health. I developed a deep admiration and love for God and His laws and a desire to share these with others.
I grew up in a loving, supportive family with godly parents and fun-loving siblings. This home environment provided opportunities in which both my physical and spiritual health could flourish. In addition to the support I received at home, I was blessed with a supportive church family and Christian friends and teachers. Later in life the blessings continued with a Christian spouse, children of my own, and a bunch of in-laws—all of whom in some way or other have contributed to my social health and therefore influenced my spiritual and physical health.
My Mission Today
Currently I am a practicing physician at Total Health Physician Group, an outpatient primary care clinic owned by the Upper Columbia Conference of Seventh-day Adventists and operated by the local Adventist church in Pullman, Washington. This model of partnering physicians with pastors and joining churches with clinics grew out of my experience with my own health and the study of the counsels given in the Bible and the Spirit of Prophecy—a “whole” clinic/church, as it were, or a blended ministry. I now realize that one reason for this model of health care is that a family or team approach to health care has the greatest potential of making a positive, permanent impact on patients. A typical clinic visit often is not enough to help patients make physical lifestyle changes, let alone spiritual ones.
Let me give you a couple examples from patients who eagerly share their testimony:
Yvonne Wight is recently retired. She lives alone and has two grown children. She has found that the clinic/church team approach at Total Health Physician Group has made a positive difference in both her physical and spiritual health, and is filling a social need, as well. She participated in the church/clinic depression seminar followed by a Bible study on the book of Daniel, which she hosted in her home. She recently attended a series of meetings on origins of humans and other creatures on earth, organized by the local Adventist church.
“The church/clinic replicates a nurturing family . . . and you walk into a room [either in the clinic or at a depression seminar], and they are glad to see you,” Wight says. “There is a bonding that takes place that is terrific.” Wight adds that the inspiration she has received has motivated her to reach out to others. “This group [is] reaching out and modeling healthy behavior, and it makes me want to do the same thing,” she says. “I have more hope and more energy. All of a sudden I feel really good!”
Wight says that even though she has faithfully attended church every Sunday for years, she has experienced renewed spiritual health and a deeper love for God. “I was impressed and touched when I first signed into the office and given the opportunity to check the box requesting prayer—absolutely incredible!” She now carries a devotional book in her purse for personal use or for ministry to those she meets.
Blake Winegar is a 49-year-old single male who was employed as a floor-covering installer until about four years ago when he became disabled because of rheumatoid arthritis. He came to our clinic initially because this was the only clinic he could find that would work with him financially; he was experiencing financial difficulties as a result of his job layoff. Winegar says he has appreciated the support he has received from the clinic’s staff as well as the volunteers from the church. He mentioned that he was particularly impressed that his doctor, Yew-Por Ng, M.D., who took the time to bring him groceries when he was struggling to find money for food. Through ongoing interaction with clinic volunteers Winegar has made friends and discovered the help needed to make lifestyle as well as spiritual changes. He attended some church-sponsored meetings with speaker Herb Montgomery and says he learned that Sabbath was designed to be a celebration rather than drudgery. He also learned that the Bible does not support a hell in which people burn forever. He explains that as a child he was forced to attend church and that keeping the Sabbath (Sunday for him) was something people had to do to keep from burning eternally in hell.
A Social Nature
We are social creatures, and our physical, mental, and spiritual health depend to a large degree on social interactions. As a physician I have found that working closely with my pastor and my church provides me with a social environment that promotes physical as well as spiritual health. God has put us together in families, teams, organizations, and committees so that we might help one another grow into His likeness and share the blessings of learning how to live a healthful lifestyle with the world.
Robert Spady, M.D., Ph.D., is founder and director of Total Health Physician Group, formerly called Community Health Care of the Palouse, an outpatient primary care clinic owned by the Upper Columbia Conference of Seventh-day Adventists and operated by the local Adventist church in Pullman, Washington.