the Goshen College Bulletin | Alumni magazine since 1956

Photo of Dr. Jeevan PaulBringing care to those in need

by Dr.Jeevan Paul, Model Cities HAelth Center in St. Paul, Minn. with Ryan Miller

As a child, as far back as I can remember, issues about peace and justice consumed me. As a 10-year-old, living in Princeton, N.J., I asked my parents to send my allowance to earthquake victims in India. At the age of 15, while living in India, I decided I would be a doctor to serve India's poorer, rural communities.

I once asked my father why Christians tolerate poverty. My father's reply, "Jesus said the poor would always be with us," did not satisfy me. It was not until a decade later, in [Director of Peace, Justice and Conflict Studies] Ruth Krall's Liberation Theologies class at Goshen College, that I found a framework that validated my ideas about Jesus and poverty.

At Goshen, my self-esteem grew when I learned that others shared my belief that following Christ meant challenging injustice and poverty. The Latin American Liberation notion that God was on the side of the poor affirmed my worldview. Liberation Theologies and Violence/Nonviolence (also taught by Krall) gave me new language to articulate my feelings and helped create an intellectual foundation that continues to sustain me today.

It was Ruth who recommended I attend a 1993 conference on health and healing that focused on patients with life-threatening illnesses. That information influenced my medical training and current practice. Eleven years after graduation, I still seek out Ruth for her expertise on peace, justice and healing.

I currently work as an internal medicine physician at a community health center in St. Paul, Minn., serving a similar population to those I wanted to care for in India. Most of my patients earn well below the poverty line. Racism, poverty and domestic violence intersect with heart disease, diabetes and chronic lung disease on a daily basis in my exam rooms. Part of my job as a physician involves helping patients successfully navigate healthcare systems that too often treat them according to the color of their skin or the size of their pocketbooks.

Medical training offers important knowledge about how to treat health conditions, but provides little education on the larger issues of peace and justice. In our clinic, my colleagues and I strive to create a place where each patient is treated as if they come from the richest neighborhood in the Twin Cities. It means a lot to me when patients say they like seeing their doctor. While I can't fix most economic issues, I can provide them with respectful, compassionate and quality care.

This morning, I missed an important call because I was on the phone seeking protection for a patient who is a victim of domestic violence. In spite of my mission or reasons for working at this clinic, I can't solve her problems. But I can at least get other people involved who can be helpful to her. Hopefully, for this woman, our clinic and my office can be a place of trust, comfort and safety.