Shalom in medicine

Hello! My name is Stephanie; I graduated Princeton in 2010 with a WWS degree and am now a fourth-year medical student going into psychiatry residency (i.e. more years of training to become a psychiatrist) starting this July. I recently married my wonderful husband, who is also a fourth-year medical school student.

One (of the many) joys of being in medicine with my husband is that he is able to also think through and provide a different perspective about the field – all of the posts I will be writing on this blog are the product of and/or influenced by conversations I have with him, so I wanted to explicitly acknowledge (and thank!) him from the beginning.


When I went to medical school, it seemed like a fairly straightforward decision because there seemed to be such an explicit link to promoting shalom, which is perhaps just another way of saying “you get to help people.” The book of Revelation makes clear that in heaven there will be no more mourning, crying, or pain, so from my then-cursory understanding of medicine, of course becoming a doctor was a legitimate endeavor.

In medical school, psychiatry in particular captivated my attention because while the body was interesting intellectually, psychiatry deals with the profound mystery of patients’ minds and spirits, the restoration of shalom in situations where ultimate things are at stake. In friends and acquaintances who have struggled with eating disorders, depression, PTSD, schizophrenia, and bipolar disorder (to name a few), I have seen how necessary a foundation mental health is for establishing shalom, for “a man’s spirit sustains him in sickness, but a crushed spirit who can bear?” (Proverbs 18:14).

// as a side note, i feel like there’s a WORLD of redemption that needs to happen in the church’s understanding of psychiatry and mental illness; those who suffer from mental illnesses are unnecessarily shamed and hurt by the church’s ignorance of the realities of mental illness and casual dismissal of those who suffer as “needing to have more faith in God” etc.//

The journey through medical school has been one of the most challenging experiences of my life (academically, personally, spiritually etc) — and having a gospel worldview in medical school itself is probably worth 1000 posts (or rants) — but my journey has given me a glimpse into a more nuanced reality of the gospel worldview when applied to the practice of medicine. My hope is that those who are seeking to be in the medical profession (or even just want to understand it) will find this a useful adjunct to their own journeys.

A few things that come to mind and that I hope to address in future posts (although on some of these I may have more questions than answers):

  • How should a gospel worldview impact the attitude of a physician when treating patients?
  • What is medicine prepared to do, and where are its boundaries? (i.e. what are the expectations we can rightly have of medicine?)
  • How does promoting shalom translate into how a doctor practices? Beyond treating the individual’s disease, this includes (but is not limited to): 
    • addressing systems and policies that prevent patients from receiving proper treatment
    • addressing the patient’s context and community
  • In psychiatry:
    • How can a psychiatrist respond to both the organic and inorganic needs of the mind?
    • How does an understanding of sin and the fall help us conceptualize mental illness?

Not sure where I’ll start, but I’m glad this blog exists, as it encourages me to think a little more systematically through some of these issues (the unexamined life etcetc).

I’m always open for suggestions for topics, so let me know!

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