"Shortly after I turned eleven, I got Rheumatic Fever and required complete bed rest for eight months, including one month of hospitalization. The open Pediatric Unit accommodated over 20 children, introducing me to all kinds of illnesses - varying from children with acute appendicitis that required surgery to those with croup who were placed under bed canopies. This kaleidoscope of health care issues that paraded in front of me, day and night, raised my curiosity and I knew for sure I wanted to study and practice medicine!
"There was significant heart involvement from the Rheumatic Fever and as a child I faced the real possibility of becoming an invalid. I came to the point of resignation, of being willing to accept whatever God wanted in my life, at an early age. Then slowly, after three years of very limited physical activity, I recovered completely, without any cardiac symptoms!
"Medical school education required hard work and focused attention but I was confident that it was God’s will because He opened the way financially through sufficient funds from scholarships. The first patient I cared for as a resident in the Children’s Hospital changed my life. She was a three year old girl who was admitted with acute leukemia. Over the course of a year of treatment, she was transformed from a bright, energetic, beautiful girl to an emaciated, hairless, aged child before finally dying from her disease. During that year I bonded with the child and her family, so I faced the challenge of where is God when really awful things happen to innocent children? My quest for answers to that dilemma was reinforced some years later while I was a faculty member at Loma Linda University our son was diagnosed with Paranoid Schizophrenia. Why would God let that happen to a young man who had so much potential and to a family committed to God? Understanding suffering and how to provide comfort to those who suffer has always been a large part of my journey with God.
"When asked to be the Dean of the School of Medicine at Loma Linda University I was convicted that this was the one place in the world that could, and must, train physicians to maintain and grow their faith in the midst of human suffering, provide whole person care to all patients, and thereby continuing “the healing ministry of Jesus Christ”. Working with an interdisciplinary faculty taskforce, the religion curriculum was completely revised and the changes implemented in less than a year.
"Soon after I became University President, we were able to translate the concept of wholeness into a reality for students, faculty, and staff by designing and building of the Drayson Center Complex – incorporating space and programming for intellectual enhancement, social connectedness, as well as the main focus on physical fitness and well being.
"In 1999, I was asked to provide leadership at the Medical Center. It was a precarious time for healthcare in general, including at Loma Linda. We were hemorrhaging money. The dedicated administrative team worked diligently and experienced God’s miraculous interventions, like those when the school was established. Checks came in just in time; managed care companies permitted renegotiation of “non-negotiable” contracts; and staff sacrificed and loyally stayed with Loma Linda, enabling a financial turnaround.
"Through the years, I have learned the importance of maintaining my personal relationship with God; of living within His will; and of daily giving all the dilemmas to God so I might be emotionally present for my family. Leadership is an all-absorbing role. So it is imperative to prioritize family commitments and to be emotionally present in your daily interactions with your family. I have come to realize that sharing your excitement about the organization’s mission and the positive accomplishments of your work generates a sense of excitement in children about being part of something that God has ordained, thwarting the feeling that the organization has stolen their parent. Looking back on decades of personal and professional living, I am grateful for God’s love, faithfulness, and empowerment and for the gift of the dedicated and talented people who have shared my journey."
Photo: Dr Lyn Behrens giving the editor, Nerida Taylor Bates, her doctoral diploma