My father was a dentist who practiced in a small town in Oahu, Hawaii. In the annals of dental history, it is unlikely he will ever be mentioned in any of its pages, but I knew he was a popular dentist. Wherever we went, his patients would always stop him with a, “Hey Doc!” I always beamed with pride knowing that so many people trusted and respected my father. He wanted me to follow in his footsteps, but in spite of working in his office, I had no desire to enter the same profession, much to his disappointment.
Disappointment struck again when I was a third-year medical student. With trepidation, I shared with my father my desire to enter pathology. His nonplussed reply said it all. “I think you would be much better with direct patient care.”
“But Dad!” I protested. “I will be taking care of patients. The diagnoses I make determine the treatment for every patient I diagnose!”
My father dismissively shook his head and continued. “Besides, my colleagues in medicine told me that pathologists don’t make a good living. The government is cutting back on reimbursements, especially hospital-based specialties like pathology, radiology, and anesthesiology.” My father continued to shake his head. “Bad choice, son.”
“Sorry to disappoint you, Dad.” I was crushed. First, I didn’t follow in his footsteps and enter dentistry. Now, he disapproved of my specialty choice in medicine. I hoped the issue would die a quiet death after I moved away for my residency. However, a few days later, my father approached me. “Son, I need to talk to you. I know I wanted you to be in direct patient care, but I was wrong to think that pathologists do not care for patients.”
I was silent as I was humbled my father’s candor.
“Every specialty in medicine goes through cycles. When I started, people told me there were too many dentists in this town, but it didn’t matter to me whether I would be busy or not, this was how I wanted to care for my patients.” My father paused and lovingly looked at me with a face that I had never before seen.
“There will always be room for someone who cares. Always put your patients first.”
I never forgot those words. When I decided upon my medical specialty, I did not think I was giving up patient care. There are many ways to care for patients and although direct contact is uncommon in my specialty, I am continually interacting with the physicians and other health care providers who are directly caring for their patients, advising them of treatments and prognosis. In every occupation, there are different roles, all interdependent and vital. In the Church of Jesus Christ, it is no different.
I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wages according to his labor. For we are God’s fellow workers. You are God’s field, God’s building.
1 Corinthians 3:6-9 (ESV)
The Apostle Paul recognized and honored the different moving parts that God uses to establish His Kingdom in this world. Paul may have been the initial missionary contact and Apollos may have continued the mission but it was only through the power of God that any growth and success could occur. In God’s Kingdom, there are special roles but no specialties. We are all God’s fellow workers.
Whether serving in the Body of Jesus Christ, our occupations, or our lives, there is always room for someone who cares.
Love and trust the Lord; seek His will in your life.