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LLU Med Grad Brings Healing—
And the Healer—to AIDS Victims
Harvey Elder prays with patients, shares Christ.

BY RICHARD WEISMEYER, director, Office of University Relations, Loma Linda University
 
arvey Elder, former chair of Loma Linda University School of Medicine’s Department of Infectious Disease and a 1957 graduate of the School of Medicine, thinks God is enjoying a laugh at his expense.

COMMITTED HEALER: Harvey Elder, M.D., a 1957 graduate of LLU’s School of Medicine, says, “If Jesus Christ were an infectious disease physician at Loma Linda today, what would He do? The answer was obvious to me: He would take care of people with HIV/AIDS!”
“Why else would He have chosen me to take care of people with HIV/AIDS?” Elder asks. “When I treated my first AIDS patient in January of 1983, I was a very Victorian, naive young man with lots of prejudices. I didn’t know any gay people or injection drug users, and I knew I wouldn’t like them if I saw them.”

A month later, Elder woke up at 1:30 in the morning wrestling with a tough question: “If Jesus Christ were an infectious disease physician at Loma Linda today, what would He do? The answer was obvious to me: He would take care of people with HIV/AIDS!” 

That insight revolutionized Elder’s life and practice.

Elder finds that Christian patients cope with the disease rather well, but non-Christians are often very angry. “Some of my patients become Christians, and that makes a big difference in how they deal with the disease.”

Patients seldom object when Elder asks permission to talk about spirituality. “When I finish the history and physical, I ask, ‘How does this work for you? Do you talk to God?’ Then I ask if it would be OK for me to bring God up from time to time. I also ask if it would be helpful if I prayed with them before I leave. If they hesitate in the slightest, I say, ‘That’s OK; I don’t want to push that.’”

“About a third of my patients become Christians,” Elder informs. “I use a Campus Crusade for Christ pamphlet entitled Would You Like to Know God Personally? with my patients. It includes a prayer of surrender to Christ.”

As he reviews the last three decades of his life and career, Elder is glad God directed his life and career toward helping people with AIDS. As Elder recently said after a counseling session in which one of his patients came to know Christ, “Sometimes I go home so excited that I could fly and carry the car!”
 






 
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