Friday, November 17, 2017

Healing Kinships


There are mixed responses when you announce that you will be attending a reunion.  Popular forms are family and educational reunions.  For some it is just a nostalgic extravagance.  For others it is a chance to hear both old and new stories that you have shared.  I prefer to see reunions as the later.

This reunion may stretch the definition - It was attending a presentation supporting prison ministry in Grand Haven, Michigan (10/12/17).  The reunion part was hearing Father Gregory Boyle recount many of the stories I first heard in 2012 while reading Tattoos on the heart: The power of boundless compassion.  It was a great reunion.  It was at that reunion I heard an announcement of new stories that will appear this month Barking to the choir: The power of radical kinship.

A more classic reunion, 50 years since medical school graduation, actually began before the formal event with the collection and distribution of a brief histories.  I was impressed with the stories of mission and community involvement.  Even better was their love of their vocation.  When the reunion occurred (October 26-28, 2017) it was a great cerebration.   We are “kin” who shared a common beginning and remain connected to a common purpose of healing.



Humanity for Prisoners

Boyle, G. (2011). Tattoos on the heart: The power of boundless compassion. Simon and Schuster.

Hage, M. L. (2012). Techniques and Transformation.

Boyle, G. (2017). Barking to the Choir: The Power of Radical Kinship. Simon & Schuster.

Hage, M.L. (2017) Healing Covenant

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Healing History

"Singing is praying twice”*
Chance the Rapper

Come, let us sing for joy to the Lord;

    let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation.
Psalm 95:1 (NIV)

Many of us have just finished watching the 10 part documentary by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick on the history of the Viet Nam War.  For me, the big question was “what was I doing during those years?”.   It is hard to remember the emotions surrounding that time, but it is easy to recall the music.

So beside telling the horrible facts, I was moved by the music.  The music was for me the key to the healing that is possible.  Maybe that has always been true.  The question for us is what are the songs that you are singing today and will they be a part of your life’s story.

For me the answer came October 1. 2017 at a celebration of the 500 year anniversary of the Reformation.  This was a small local effort in Holland, Michigan.  The community came to a beautiful concert hall and sang songs of the church.  The voices may have been older but we sang of healing and life.   This experience demonstrated again the power of the music we have learned and are still learning.



*Quote also attributed to St. Augustine

Hage, M. L. (2013). Healing Music 

Hymnody: The Voice of Christian Unity A festival of hymns old and new that are common to all Christian traditions.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Healing Covenant

Oldest Fragment of the Hippocratic Oath

“I do solemnly swear by that which I hold most sacred:”

This fall I will attend my 50th Medical School Graduation Reunion.  I was able to retrieve the Aequanimitas 1967 yearbook and the graduation program.  Central to that graduation ceremony was the Hippocratic Oath that was printed on the inside cover of the program.  

The context of the oath begins by the swearing “by that which I hold most sacred” and goes  on to describe our behaviors in relationship to patients and colleagues.  How should we understand that oath today and how it was applied in our professional lives in the last 50 years?

There are overarching descriptions that could be used to describe the changes in medicine during this era: Moving from art to technology; from compassion to contract; and from sacred to secular.  The oath itself has changed as well as its use.  What I believe is central to healing  is the idea of covenant as the first line is sometimes translated .  The covenant between individuals is sworn before God as an oath and that makes it much more than a contract.  That sacred context has been the missing ingredient for many in the healing professions, but there are exceptions as reported in this blog.

In anticipation of the reunion, I am looking forward to hearing the stories of healing that began by taking that covenant oath 50 years ago.



First line of The Hippocratic Oath as printed in the 1967 Class Day Ceremony and Honors Convocation

Hage, M. L. (2011). Healing Agent Education.

Hage, M. L. (2014). Healing Ebola.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

“Who tells your story?”

Zion Canyon 

Petroglyphs in Zion National Park

So God created mankind in his own image, 
in the image of God he created them; 
Genesis 1:27a (NIV)

We just returned from a family trip to Zion and Bryce Canyon National Parks.   It was an amazing trip where millions of years of creation are on display.  Less obvious to most visitors are the presence of human art and stories on the walls of the canyon.  

I was awed by the sense of time that was visible in the layers of rock and the forces that created these vistas, canyons and mesas.  These vistas have been experienced by millions of people.  We stood as witnesses to a God of creation and the generations before us.  We were also treated to some wonderfully clear night skies that allowed us to see the other worlds around us…small and large displays of God’s creation.

What stories would we want to tell to the ages?  What art would capture the purpose of our lives and place?  For me, the greatest story and art are found in healing relationships that begin with the great stories of creation.



Last line of the song Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story? in the musical Hamilton, written by Lin-Manuel Miranda

Hage, M. L. (2009). God’s Creation

Hage, M. L. (2012). “Green” Healing Agents

Thursday, May 25, 2017


Love and truth form a good leader; sound leadership is founded on loving integrity.
Proverbs 20:28 (MSG)

In his recent book, Medical Catastrophe: Confessions of an Anesthesiologist, Ronald W. Dworkin. M.D., describes his life and identity as an anesthesiologist.  His thesis is that there is a loss of understanding of what it means to be a doctor with the loss of physician leaders. This book is also a memoir documenting personal loss he and his family have felt.  He shares some complicated medical “misses” and “near misses” of his anesthesia practice.  

I have seen most of the catastrophes that Dr. Dworkin shares.  I also share his concern about the loss of medicine as a vocation (my word).  He primarily sees a corporate world of medical technology with a craftsman identity of physicians.  It is an understandable perspective given his speciality and history.  The larger cultural forces have pushed all of us into an “unhappy” corner.  His solution is less clear but seem to reside in virtues like courage and a community that will reaffirm the importance of doctors as leaders.

I still see the reality of vocational calling that can be found in the applications to medical schools.  What we need to be, as older doctors, are mentors to those who will be benefactor/leaders of the future.  We can do this by naming the healing (my word) that is also found in Doctor Dworkin’s catastrophe stories and the benefactor/leaders that show up in times of great need.



Dworkin, R. W. (2017). Medical Catastrophe: Confessions of an Anesthesiologist (1 ed.). Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.

Hage, M. L. (2011). Healing Agent Education.

Dungy, T. (2011). The Mentor Leader: Secrets to Building People and Teams That Win Consistently. Tyndale Momentum.

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

Hage, M. L. (2012). God’s Grace.

Hage, M.L. (2013). God’s Grace Revisited.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Healing Charity

“Mudding a House” Hands
Tabitha Ministry Kenya

Now in Joppa there was a disciple whose name was Tabitha, 
which in Greek is Dorcas.  
She was devoted to good works and acts of charity.
Acts 9:36 (NRSV)

Did you here the joke about the family physician, the psychiatrist and internist who were all asked how they would fix the practice of medicine?  You can find their answers by reading their books (see references; Downing, Nussbaum and Rosenthal), but it is not easy reading and it certainly is no joke!   These authors are longing for another and deeper dimension to what they see and do everyday.  It will not be found in new technology, another degree, or a new title with more compensation.

My diagnosis and prescription is that we have lost a sense of charity and the joy that was an integral part of our identity.  Maybe that is what can be rediscovered in our vocation. It may mean getting our hands dirty at the same time we rethink our professional identities.

I have seen it in the dedicated lives of physicians, nurses, physical therapists who have defied the dominant medical culture.  What you will find in those lives is a deep sense of charity and joy.

Thanks be to God for these other voices and their works of charity.



Personal photo from a house mudding with “Tabitha Ministry”
Downing, R. (2011). Biohealth: Beyond Medicalization: Imposing Health. Wipf & Stock Pub.

Nussbaum, A. M. (2016). The Finest Traditions of My Calling: One Physician’s Search for the Renewal of Medicine (1 ed.). Yale University Press.

Rosenthal, E. (2017). An American Sickness: How Healthcare Became Big Business and How You Can Take It Back (1 ed.). Penguin Press.

Hage, M. L. (2013). Joy.

Hage, M.L. (2016) Joy of Healing

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Artists of Barcelona

        Pablo Picasso  1881-1973   


                                                            Antoni Gaudi 1852-1926   

I just returned from Kenya with a 4 day stop in Barcelona, Spain.  We had been told it is a wonderful city by our children and friends.  They were right.  We had beautiful weather and a time to rest.  What was the best was learning about the lives and works of two of its famous artists, Pablo Picasso and Antoni Gaudi.  We had a walking tour and learned about the life of Pablo Picasso that ended at the Picasso Museum.  The next day we had a guided tour of the Sagrada Familia and learned about the life and the continuing work of Antoni Gaudi.  

Both of these men saw the world with new eyes that changed our visions.  Both saw new dimensions of the spaces we inhabit - what a wonderful gift to us all from both of these artists.

What moved me was the life of Gaudi whose work was focused on the larger Christian narrative. That work found its form in the cathedral, Sagrada Familia.  It is still not complete! 

For me, Gaudi is a wonderful example for the vocation of my life.  What will be the work that connects with the lives of those that follow?  My answer has been the vocation of education and  that is an answer that is still being created. 


                                                                Sagrada Familia


Picasso Museum, Barcelona

Sagrada Familia

Hage, M. L. (2011). Practitioner, Professor or Other?

Hage, M. L. (2013). Seniors

Wednesday, March 1, 2017


Freedom from Fear 
Hyde Park, New York

Even the sparrow has found a home,
    and the swallow a nest for herself,
    where she may have her young—
a place near your altar,
    Lord Almighty, my King and my God.
Psalm 84:3 (NIV) 

“Home” is an important idea that most of us take for granted.  We know it is a place of safety and refuge - a place of freedom from fear.

I heard a wonderful presentation on the “January Series” by Matthew Desmond.  That motivated me to read his book, Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City that describes the multiple pathways of loosing that safe place.  I was also motivated by the challenges to the ministry of our downtown church.

The churches task is first to “see” the reality in their community and secondly to look for  real solutions.  We need to look for ways  that support families and help them create affordable places that they can call home.  “Habitat for Humanity” is one such response.  Another is “Just Shelter”.

I  would recommend this book as a primer for any downtown church looking for a healing community ministry.


Desmond, Matthew (2016-03-01). Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City Crown/Archetype. Kindle Edition. 

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Sabbath Healing

Moses said, “This is what God was talking about: 
Tomorrow is a day of rest, a holy Sabbath to God.   
Exodus 16:23 (MSG)

It is easy to get so busy that we miss connecting with the patients we are called to serve.  Today is a Sabbath time when we can find or be shown another dimension.  The singing and rest will be “just what the doctor needed”. 

“Rest” is difficult for most physicians.  Our discipline leaves little room for reflection and distance from the anesthesia of work.  Fortunately, we have the church where we all can be healed.  That is exactly what happened today.   We heard another perspective to the suffering that surrounds us.  We responded by giving support to each other and we left encouraged and rested.   Monday will come soon enough.

Tenwek Hospital, Kenya


Dein S; Loewenthal KM. The mental health benefits and costs of Sabbath observance among Orthodox Jews.[Erratum appears in J Relig Health.2013 Dec;52(4):1391]
Journal of Religion & Health. 52(4):1382-90, 2013 Dec.

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

Friday, January 27, 2017

Healing Stress

Hans Selye
January 26, 1907 – October 16, 1982

“Adopting the right attitude can convert a negative stress into a positive one.”
Hans Selye

“The seed cast in the weeds represents the ones who hear the kingdom news but are overwhelmed with worries about all the things they have to do and all the things they want to get. The stress strangles what they heard, and nothing comes of it
Mark 4: 18-19 (The Message)

I used to describe the nature of stresses of medical practice as “acuity” and “volume”.  The really bad stress was when you were confronted with both the “board was full” and “they all were very sick”.  From all reports, this is still true today despite our systems of care and the efficiencies that they bring.  I have discovered a new stressor; “running out of time”.  One of the paradoxes of retirement is that when you think you will have a lot of time, the reality is “time is not on your side”. 

So what will sustain us, whether young or old, with the realities of a suffering world?  The answer I have found is in the individual small actions of a touch, a hug, a note, or just showing up.  We have become so overwhelmed with the big items we miss the healing found in small acts.  Hope emerges when I see those actions in the “rear view” mirror of my life and how they have mysteriously fit together.

For all our individual and immediate fears, we have assurance of a larger story of healing.  That has been what I discovered in the “4th quarter”.    It is the encouragement we all need, young or old, when we are overwhelmed with the real stresses of caring for and with others.




Perez, H,R et al  Chaos in the Clinic: Characteristics and Consequences of Practices Perceived as Chaotic.  Journal For Healthcare Quality. 39(1):43-53, January/February 2017.

Frith, KH. Medication Errors in the Intensive Care Unit: Literature Review Using the SEIPS Model. AACN Advanced Critical Care. 24(4):389-404, October/December 2013.

Hage, ML Healing in the Fourth Quarter

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

The Beauty of Healing

Ecstasy of Saint Teresa by Bernini

Your beauty and love chase after me
    every day of my life. 
 Psalm 23: 6 (The Message)

I just finished a book by Brian Zahnd, Beauty Will Save the World: Rediscovering the Allure and Mystery of Christianity, and I have decided to look for “Beauty” in this world of healing.  But maybe it is more like Beauty may be “chasing me”.   Now that is a mystery!

I knew that the arts are a critical component of our faith, healing and even in our technology.  I have seen it in the creativity of medical students, the sanctuaries and temples, and in patients who share the joy of a new life.  What is critical is that we train our eyes and ears to see and hear it in our lives.

The beauty of healing was recently shared in the CBS broadcast by Steve Hartman.  It is worth viewing as an example of the mystery and beauty of one hug in a world of suffering,

So, wishing all of you a Beautiful New Year that is filled with wonder filled surprises of loves and hugs,



Zahnd, B. (2012). Beauty Will Save the World: Rediscovering the Allure and Mystery of Christianity. Charisma House.

Hage, M. L. (2011). The Mystery of Healing.

Hage, M. L. (2011). Healing, HeLa and Heaven. 

Wellbery C;  McAteer RA. The Art of Observation: A Pedagogical Framework. 
Academic Medicine.  90(12):1624-30, 2015 Dec.

Hartman S  Chance meeting at a grocery store gives grieving widower new purpose in life  November 18, 2016.