Scope of Our Medical Work-3

The genius of the Advent Movement is against concentration of men and resources in one spot, it matters not whether the men be preachers, teachers, publishers, or plain church members. The genius of this great movement calls for spreading out and ever farther out. Can anyone give valid reasons why this princi­ple should not apply to our medical men?

By F. D. NICHOL, Editor of the Review and Herald

The genius of the Advent Movement is against concentration of men and resources in one spot, it matters not whether the men be preachers, teachers, publishers, or plain church members. The genius of this great movement calls for spreading out and ever farther out. Can anyone give valid reasons why this princi­ple should not apply to our medical men?

Thus far we have largely been defeated in our endeavors to spread out our doctors, and to set in motion practical medical plans inte­grated with conference evangelistic and pas­toral endeavors. Now, defeat in itself need not prove disastrous. But the longer defeat con­tinues, the greater the danger that we fall into the truly perilous state of becoming resigned to defeat, even of becoming content with it. If I were resigned to defeat, I would not be speaking at this time. But I am not, and I do not believe you are. I think there is something better, vastly better that can be done. But I cannot believe that we shall ever do it in terms of the pattern we are now following. We must create a new pattern. And that new pattern, as I have stated, calls, first of all, for a funda­mentally new attitude on the part of most of us as to the significance of the whole health and medical doctrine we profess. We shall never find ourselves concerned to the point of learn­ing how the new pattern should be woven un­less we are persuaded deep within us that the pattern is worth weaving.

The medical garment, intended of heaven to give beauty and added attractiveness to the whole body of our truths, lacks symmetry and design. In one small area the garment lies heavy in folds. Most other parts of the body are thinly covered, and the extremities are bare. We have said much about the value of this garment to shield us from stormy blasts. But if we are depending on the present gar­ment to do so, we are tempting providence. A second look at it reveals that only in a few spots is the fabric close knit. The remainder consists of loose strands.

What we need is a new pattern for the med­ical garment, new and more enthusiastic weav­ers, and new strands woven in to give added strength to the fabric.

Last installment of an address given at the Medical Council in Boulder, Colorado. The entire address will be printed in pamphlet form for wider distribution.

When we reweave the garment according to a new pattern, the first strong strands should be the grass roots of the Adventist constitu­ency, and the weavers should be preachers and medical secretaries who present the doctrine of healthful living in the same sober, sensible way that we seek to present our other doc­trines. The weaving should also be done by the teachers in our schools to a degree not now suggested by the curricula of most of our acad­emies and colleges.

When I was in college I learned backward and forward the dynasties of ancient Egypt and Assyria. But when I traveled those lands I found that the drifting sands had covered up all the dynasties, and the mummies in the mu­seums were a discouraging sight. I wish that part of the time that I spent in college study­ing about these dead men, for whom I could do nothing, might have been spent studying about living men, for whom I could do some­thing. In other words, I wish I had received more training in our health message. Pray tell, what is the justification for our most costly school system, unless it indoctrinates us thor­oughly in those distinctive tenets that justify our existence as a separate people ! I know that something is done in behalf of health education in certain of our schools, but I am not speak­ing of exceptions.

Beyond our churches and schools the weav­ing should be carried on in public lectures. I think that the pattern, if skillfully woven, would attract the eye and draw men into an investigation of the whole fabric of our truth. It is here that a local conference medical de­partment would most fully come into its own so far as the preaching and teaching phase of our medical work is concerned.

Practicing Phase of Our Medical Work

But this phase is only half of our medical work. There is a second phase—practicing. That brings us squarely to the question of de­nominational medical institutions.

There are those among us—and they are not all laymen—who ask soberly: "What is the dif­ference between a sanitarium and a hospital?" I wish I could think there were only a few who make this inquiry. No queAion could more sharply reveal a blurred understanding of the real genius of our medical work. Was this Ad­vent Movement ever commissioned of God to tie up millions of its limited resources and endless hours of responsible committees, simply to operate hospitals? True, a hospital can do a great service to humanity, and some may plausibly argue that we are commanded to heal, the sick. But we are also commanded to clothe the naked and feed the hungry. Yet no one thinks we should therefore establish cloth­ing factories. And certainly we ought not to own or operate food factories or restaurants unless such establishments serve in some way to advance the distinctive teachings and objec­tives of the movement. Even so with our great establishment that produces doctors, and our medical institutions, called sanitariums.

This last prophetic movement was not raised up to remove bad gall bladders or appendixes, except as such removing aids in removing bad hearts and placing new ones within. This move­ment was not raised up to perform orthopedic miracles of making the physically lame to walk, except as such medical miracles aid us in making the spiritually lame to walk with steady stride toward the gates of heaven. To see in medical work an end in itself—that is, to see in the physical blessing it brings, a suffi­cient justification for that medical work—is to be guilty of the chief heresy of liberal Protes­tantism. That heresy teaches that good deeds, social improvements, better medical care, better housing, are in themselves sufficiently worthy projects to consume the energies of churches and churchmen. That is the doctrine of the social gospel. Against that doctrine we have ever inveighed.

Our stand has been right and has protected us from dissipating our limited resources and men on endless social-improvement campaigns. Consistency demands that we relate ourselves to medical aid for mankind in the same way.

The Price of Running Hospitals

Some of us, with pardonable pride, declare that Adventist medical institutions should be second to none, that we should offer the latest in every branch of medicine, have the latest and best of all equipment, and carry on extensive research. Did God set us in the world to com­pete with the world? I think not. If we seek, increasingly, to have our sanitariums offer standard hospital service, or essentially so, then these facts follow:

  1. We shall be keenly and increasingly in competition with every local hospital.
  2. We shall have little reason to hope that people will come a considerable distance to patronize our sanitariums. Why should they add travel expense to hospital bills ?
  3. We shall be involved in costly, elaborate, and ever expanding outlays in order to provide medical service. And it is hard to compete with tax-supported institutions in this respect.
  4. In turn, this means that we must spend the limited funds available for medical work on constant expansion of existing plants rather than on creating new ones.
  5. Our institutions will need to be very close to cities to secure their share of patient busi­ness.
  6. Most of our patients will be the kind who hasten in for medical and surgical care, and who, as soon as their heads are clear of anes­thesia, and their feet steady, depart again.
  7. Many private physicians, who do not breathe the Adventist spirit, will increasingly claim that their patients should be admitted.
  8. We shall find ourselves increasingly per­plexed by the advance of socialized medicine.

We are appointed of God, in our medical work, as in every other phase of our work, not to compete with the world, but to offer some­thing that the. world does not offer. If I were asked to describe the ways in which I think our sanitariums are, or should be, different from hospitals, this is what I would say :

Sanitariums are unique in at least three re­spects. Viewed medically, they are places where a primary emphasis is placed on three thera­peutic procedures—mental hygiene, physical medicine, and diet therapy. Viewed education­ally, they are places where an earnest endeavor is made, not simply to cure the immediate mal­ady, butIto instruct the patient in basic princi­ples of health, and if possible, to generate in his mind an enthusiasm to carry out these principles in his future living. Viewed spirit­ually, they are places where these health prin­ciples are presented in a religious setting, with the hope of furnishing the patient a spiritual incentive to live in harmony with physical laws, and to find release from the tensions of life in a fellowship with God.

To this end our sanitariums are operated as places of quietness, not too dominated by the odor of disinfectants, where men and women, sick in body and spirit, the victims of wrong habits of living and the tensions of our modern world, can come apart and rest in an atmos­phere of faith and prayer, and be taught how to live aright.

It is no accident that some of our first medi­cal institutions bore such titles as "Rest Home," "Rural Health Retreat," and "Health Reform Institute."

In general we should leave to private physi­cians and to great hospitals the routine practice of medicine. And as we do so we may sincerely thank God for these agencies, even as we are thankful for numerous material facilities that care for great needs in society. But let us, as a religious body, use time and sacred money in the field of medicine only so far as medicine definitely advances the distinctive spiritual aims that are the justification for our existence as a religious body. If we focus on the dis­tinctly sanitarium type of institution, here are some of the gains that come.

The Advantages of Operating Sanitariums

1. We are no longer in keen competition with hospitals, for we are operating rather specialized institutions. Specialized practice and specialized institutions are surely in good standing. And there is nothing in my suggestions that would convey any other idea than that the cloctots in our sanitariums should be specialists in the best sense of the word.

2. We may hope to draw patients from a larger area.

3. We are not involved in so costly or ex­tensive an outlay. That means we ought to be able to start small sanitariums within financial reason.

4. The sanitariums that we set up could be out a little distance from populous centers. That is imperative if these sanitariums are to do their best work for the patients.

5. Our patients will stay for longer periods of time, and thus provide us a real opportunity to instruct them in health principles and to help them spiritually.

6. We shall more completely control the pro­gram of the patients and of the institution, be­cause the doctors who send in their patients will feel they are referring them to specialists.

7. We shall be specializing in therapies which the patient himself can be educated to employ in large degree when he returns home. I think it is no accident that our three distinc­tive therapies have that feature in common. And is it not of the genius of our whole work to seek to help men permanently? Our sani­tariums fall short if we are content simply to relieve the immediate malady. Hospitals can do that.

Our sanitariums should have as a goal more actual instruction of patients, practical classes in cooking, and simple physical therapy, for example. And if we have a more definitely sanitarium type of patient, we , can more easily do this.

8. Our specialized institutions will be at a distinct advantage, as compared with hospitals, in meeting the rising tide of socialized medi­cine. That is the experience of our largest sanitarium in the world, the Skodsborg Sani­tarium.

It is not that we would decry other branches of medicine, or that we would wholly eliminate them—not at all—but simply that we would put a prime emphasis on certain therapies. Nor would I say that we do not need a few large key institutions, which can serve as training centers for medical interns, residents, and nurses, and which must therefore deal more in hospital cases.

If I read the signs aright, a distraught world, troubled with increasing cases of nervous ten­sion and breakdowns; a world where bodily ailments now stand revealed as being too often attributable to dietary errors; a world which is doctoring itself with every kind of medicament, most strikingly sedatives, stands singu­larly in need of the help of institutions that specialize in mental hygiene, diet therapy, and physical medicine. Such institutions, which seek not only to cure the malady but to prevent its return, will not lack for patient business. I believe they will always have a waiting list.

In the 1920's, when medical men and doctors were beginning to sense the significant relation of religion to medicine, which is mental hy­giene at its highest level, a joint committee was created by the Federal Council of Churches and the New York Academy of Medicine to explore the field. This committee, constituted of distinguished clergymen and doctors, did certain pioneering work. The committee care­fully studied many possibilities for translating their convictions into practice in the care of the spiritually, emotionally, and physically sick. As I read their report, my eye was caught by these words:

A Remarkable Report

"Careful consideration was given to a project for helping to establish a Rest Home to be maintained by Church groups under supervision of physicians, to which people who were tired in body, mind, and spirit (including those attending psychiatric clinics), could go for the physical recreation, mental re-education, and spiritual re-generation needed to prevent a serious nervous breakdown. This project had the heartiest ap­proval of the Joint Committee and it was with great regret that lack of funds necessitated putting off its fulfillment."—History of the Committee, p. 7.

That sounds to me strangely like an Advent­ist sanitarium. To think that this learned com­mittee, when it sought to crystallize its think­ing into institutional form, should have come forth with something so like the kind of medi­cal institutions that God would have us operate today!

I plead for a reappraisal of our whole health doctrine—its uniqueness medically and its dis­tinctive place in the Advent Movement. Surely the unfolding decades have revealed that this health doctrine is neither fanatical nor funny. Even with the limited use to which we have put our health principles we have obtained most gratifying results. Patients remember their visits to our sanitariums. But invariably their appreciation is not so much for the brilliant diagnosis or for the skillful surgery, as for the atmosphere of the place, the thoughtful atten­tion, the evening prayers.

Would that we had sanitariums in every con­ference to dispense more of that atmosphere, and to teach men and women how to live, not simply for the next ten or twenty years, but for eternity.


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By F. D. NICHOL, Editor of the Review and Herald

October 1949

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