Friday, February 24, 2017

Honoring two surgeons during black history month

A Gentle and Humble Leader

Dr. George H. Rawls-c. 2011

Well, another February is almost gone while I have been listening to radio and TV tributes to great American black leaders of the past. It got me thinking of my own past and the black men and women who have impacted my life, both in the US and Kenya.  One influencer in my life was Dr. George H. Rawls, a general surgeon who was on staff at Methodist Hospital of Indianapolis where I trained in general surgery from 1988 to 1993.  Dr. Rawls was a gentleman, through and through, whom I watched closely during my five year career as a surgery resident.  He was always respectful of other surgeon's opinions and was highly loved and revered by his patients.   Now retired, his past achievements included serving a term as the President of the Indiana State Medical Association and then as Assistant Dean at Indiana University School of Medicine.  He has written several books including "Papa, I wanna be a surgeon".  My favorite memory of Dr. Rawls was from a spring meeting of the Indiana chapter of the American College of Surgeons held at Hilton Head, SC.   I made a presentation on a resident research project that I had done and after the presentation Dr. Rawls came up to me and said "Mike, that was some good research and a great about you and I go and play a round of golf?"  So, though I was fairly economically challenged at the time, I got to play a round of golf at Hilton Head, courtesy of a gentle, black American surgeon named George.  Thank you Dr. Rawls for being a great role model in my life professionally and personally.  
Dr. George H. Rawls and Mike in 1993 at Hilton Head, Club Royale

A Missionary with Creativity and Vision

The second black surgeon is an old friend I met in 1988 when visiting Tenwek Hospital in Kenya as a senior medical student at IU.  Visiting Tenwek at the same time was Dr. Michael Johnson and his wife Kaye from Philadelphia.  Little did I know during my two month elective that both Mike and Kaye and Pam and I would be co-workers some day at Tenwek, serving in the surgery department as missionaries with World Gospel Mission.  That happened eight years later when Pam and I landed at Tenwek and found Michael and Kaye in their 6th year as career missionaries in Kenya.  Now over 20 years later, as I look back, I have realized that some really important programs and changes at Tenwek happened because Michael made them a priority.  That includes the medical officer internship program that has impacted over 120 young Kenyan doctors who have spent 12 months at Tenwek during their first year after medical school.  Michael made many trips to Nairobi with a medical student leader, humbly requesting the Ministry of Health to consider allowing mission hospitals to train these med school grads. Without question this program has had an incredible impact on many different mission hospitals, not just Tenwek over the years.  Michael taught me something very important about leadership,  shortly after I was asked to be the Medical Superintendent at Tenwek in 1997.  "Mike, as you interact and guide the national and missionary staff at Tenwek, don't forget that perception is 90% of reality."  That nugget has been a very important gem for me in leadership, remembering that what people think is true is VERY important, even if it isn't true.  Mike and his wife Kaye served for many years in Kenya at Tenwek Hospital, Kijabe Mission Hospital and then started the "Least of These" ministry in Nairobi, reaching out to street children.  A few years back they returned to the US and started an inner city ministry in Philadelphia, serving the poor and lonely and destitute in Jesus' name.  Mike and Kaye: thank you for serving the Lord Jesus so faithfully over decades with passion, vision, and creativity.  You are my heroes.
Dr. Michael and Kaye Johnson at WGM Celebration, June 2015

I'll close this blog with a verse from Isaiah 49:4 as a tribute to these black American servants: "Yet what is due me is in the Lord's hand and my reward is with my God."

Challenged and encouraged by these memories of my black American heroes,

Mike Chupp
CMDA Headquarters
Bristol, TN


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