Thursday, February 14, 2019

A Real Doc Martin

Martin Clunes as Doc Martin in TV Series

One of my favorite TV series is “Doc Martin”.  The fictional surgeon resides in an idyllic village on the coast of England.  He is brilliant but socially disabled and is required to engage with the realities of a peculiar community.  It is painfully honest and funny.

The memoir, Admissions, by Henry Marsh is a real narrative of the life of an English surgeon.  There was a resonance of his story with my experiences and some new insights.   What is resonant is his love of his vocation and the beauty he sees around him.  His “admissions” are delivered as a kind of public confessional.

An important insight of his surgical life is the critical importance of community.  Upon retirement he finds meaning by being trust into communities in Nepal and Ukraine.  Even though he is dislocated from his own culture, he finds and describes the beauty of these places.   It is a series of pilgrimages that he describes with upmost candor.  He returns to England in a better place than when he left.

Thanks for these lives and stories of healing.



“Doc Martin” TV Series

Marsh, H. (2017). Admissions: Life as a Brain Surgeon (1 ed.). Thomas Dunne Books.

Hage, M. L. (2013). Rounds are Over!

Thursday, January 24, 2019


We and our grandchildren are confronted by challenges of infotech.  It is no small concern.  A basic understanding of who we/they are is a good foundation for their responses

Doug Brouwer in his new book starts a conversation about identity.  It is a series of essays (letters) that explores his life with information garnered from multiple sources.    It is a good read and will be the subject of many family conversations.  

Our identity is a big idea.   If we have a digital identity it can be stolen.  If we have a narrative identity our stories can be misunderstood.  If we have a vocational identity we can retire.  We all have multiple descriptions of who we are and we look for  themes or summaries.  Where are the reliable sources or models?  

An underlying assumption of this blog is that we do have an identity as “healing agents”.  Our story is only reliable as we understand it within the context of a larger history and story.  The good news is that we have received the gift of that story/.  Doug Brouwer’s story is another part of that gift.



Brouwer, D. J. (2018). The Truth About Who We Are: Letter to My Grandchildren. Resource Publications.
Downing, R. (2011). Biohealth: Beyond Medicalization: Imposing Health. Wipf & Stock Pub.
Harari, Y. N. (2018). 21 Lessons for the 21st Century (1st Edition ed.). Spiegel & Grau.

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

New Year Prescription

The usual rhetoric is “New Year Resolutions” but maybe a more realistic approach would be to “New Year Dreams” for 2019.  

What has been worrisome this past year is the disillusionment that seems to be epidemic in our lives.  In Wilmington, the shock and now malaise of Hurricane Florence is reality.  IDP’s (internally displaced people) are one of many realities.  There is FEMA, debris removal, replacement and repair but our world has been rocked.  This looks like the “new  abnormal” as described by Governor Jerry Brown of California. The joy we regularly share on the media is Schadenfreude - you don’t have to speak German to identify with this experience. 

I needed some therapy and here is what I found:

Actually the new dreams found me in the beauty of music and story.  In a paradoxical way, our realities can produce our most beautiful dreams - a creative response that pushes all to a healing community.



Brown, Jerry “The new Abnormal”

Smith, T. W. (2018). Schadenfreude: The Joy of Another’s Misfortune. Little, Brown Spark.

Renee Fleming and the New York Philharmonic New Years Eve Concert

Andrea & Matteo Bocelli, Fall on Me

Vijay Gupta - Street Symphony

Hage, M. L. (2013). Healing Music

Thursday, December 20, 2018

"Living the Dream"

“But Christian hope is a matter of discipline more than simple self-expression. Hope is about learning to dream – provided one remembers that the dream comes not so much out of one’s own unconscious, but out of God’s. Hope is first learning God’s dream, and then living it.” Samuel Wells, Learning to Dream Again: Rediscovering the Heart of God

It is advent and a time for Christians to reflect on one of the great Transitions - God’s radical entrance into our world.  These big stories resonate with the smaller transitions of our own lives.  

For me this fall has been one of those transition times.  I decided to fully retire from the practice of medicine - the previous attempts were only “slow withdrawal” moves.  The timing was coincidental with an invitation to give a lecture to incoming obstetric and gynecologic resident applicants.  I decided to use that opportunity to share personal and professional highlights of the last 50+ years.   The title of that review was “My Exit Interview” and the conclusion was “An Awesome Adventure” - it should have been titled, “Living the Dream”!

The real question for me and the applicants is (that was not asked), “What’s next?”.   I found part of the answer in the book by Samuel Wells, Learning to Dream Again: Rediscovering the Heart of God.  It is book that was published after his tenure as Dean of Duke Chapel.  He collected his highlights and reviewed them in the context of Biblical stories.  It is a great advent read.

So the advent question is what does this “New Birth” mean in our lives?   It is a big question, but I think one answer is that it is an invitation to “Dream Again” much like those young applicants that patiently listened to my story.  The good news is that the invitation is not age dependent.

Wishing you a Christmas full of dreams,



Wells, Samuel. Learning to Dream Again: Rediscovering the Heart of God (p. 11). Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.. Kindle Edition. 

Hage, M. L. (2012). Awaiting “Good News”

Hage, M. L. (2012). Vocation & Retirement.

Hage, M. L. (2013). Rounds are Over!

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Context and Content

Dr, George Worth (1867-1936)

“In April, Worth announced his engagement to Emma Chadbourn, a childhood friend who also had made a public commitment to foreign missionary work. They were married in the First Presbyterian Church in Wilmington at the end of July 1895, and two days later, they left for China with the farewells of the congregation ringing in their ears.”
                                                                                                     Lawrence Kessler 

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance,
 kindness, goodness, faithfulness,  gentleness and self-control. 
Against such things there is no law.
                                                                                             Galatians 5:22-23  (NIV)

We just returned from a church sponsored trip to China.  Part of that trip was focused on the contribution and legacy of Dr. George Worth and his wife Emma beginning in 1895 to a mission station in Jiangyin, China.  How did we see the content and context of his life’s work?  

Part of the answer is found a history of that mission station by Lawrence Kessler.  Most of that history is about context.  To get at the content of his life and practice we were treated to the oral history by his relatives.  It was a wonderful opportunity to think about how any of our lives will be seen in the future.

What he medically addressed was smallpox, diphtheria, leprosy, tuberculosis, opium addiction as well as the liver cancer that killed his dear wife, Emma.  He was alone without assistants in the beginning facing large volumes of patients.  The hospital he loved was destroyed in 1937 in what looked like a horrible conclusion to his life’s work.

What we saw when we visited Jiangyin that the content of his life was honored as a devoted physician   He would not believe the legacy that he left.  The Jiangyin People’s Hospital that displays his photo as it’s founder is now a 1200 bed teaching hospital!  

The conclusion is that the content of our lives is what is what will sustain us no matter the context.  Thanks for the witness of Geoge and Emma Worth both then and now, in China and in Wilmington, North Carolina.


Jiangyin People’s Hospital


Kessler, L. D. (1996). The Jiangyin Mission Station: An American Missionary Community in China, 1895-1951 (The James Sprunt Studies in History and Political Science). The University of North Carolina Press.

Hauerwas, S. (2018). The Character of Virtue: Letters to a Godson. Eerdmans.

Friday, September 21, 2018

Healing Clergy

“One of Christ’s historic roles is that of healer, making the cosmos and all creatures fully well, as he shows through his ministry in first - century Galilee and Judea. Christians have founded hospitals and clinics ever since, demonstrating God’s claim to be Lord even over disease and its distortion of human flourishing.”
Jason Byassee

There are real concerns about the health of clergy.  In a recent book, Faithful and Fractured: Responding to the Clergy Health Crisis. we hear about the efforts of the United Methodist Church of North Carolina.  It is a combination of quantitative and qualitative research results combined with a health promotion initiative.  

I was left thinking how similar their findings are to what we see in the reviews of the health of physicians, nurses and therapists.  We are all looking for a “flourishing” of our lives that is even more than a better lipid profile! 

As a practicing physician, I cherished my time in the pew.  Hearing a larger story and connecting it to the events of my life was a time of sabbath healing.  It is what we all need whether we are clergy of congregant, physician or patient.  

The power of this book is it’s dual authorship, a dialogue between an health advocate and clergy.  We need more of these kind of inter-professional conversations.  We will all find a kind of flourishing when we escape the isolation of our professional silos.



Proeschold-Bell, R. J., & Byassee, J. (2018). Faithful and Fractured: Responding to the Clergy Health Crisis. Baker Academic.

Hage, M. L. (2011). Our Healing.

Hage, M. L. (2012). “Burnout” and a “Path Report”.

Hage, M. L.  (2012). Equipping Healing Agents: Sustaining Vocation. CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform.

Hage, M. L. (2016). Healing Doctors

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Eye of the Storm

Screen Shot of NBC Nightly News

Each one will be like a shelter from the wind
    and a refuge from the storm,

Isaiah 32:2a (NIV)

At 7:15 am EST on 9/14/18, the eye of Hurricane Florence came to our home in Wilmington, North Carolina.

It is a paradox that coverage of Hurricane Florence’s eye was not seen by the those who were there.  The rest of the nation and world saw multiple views of this large hurricane and the responses across our community. 

One report that captured my community was on NBC nightly news (9/14/18).  I saw my surgical colleagues reaching out with other first responders to provide emergency care.  I saw their physical and emotional exhaustion.  I saw them in prayer for strength and courage.  That was for me a powerful reminder of the power of God’s presence and promise.

We were not in the eye of the storm, but many people from near and far believed we were.  We were blessed by their concern and confronted with communication of our “safe” situation.  The paradox is the hard work of not being there.  We feel drawn to return to be present even though the roads are flooded.  

We will return and in the meantime, we are thankful for our community, grieve for those who suffer and rejoice with those who have been blessed with a new sense of a power stronger than the storm.