Erik Strandness, MD, studied and practiced neonatal, intensive-care medicine for more than 25 years before leaving the profession in 2009 to study theology at Whitworth University. His recently published book, The Director's Cut: Finding God's Screenplay on the Cutting Room Floor, documents to his attempt to seek answers beyond the physical.
Do you see yourself as having left medicine for good?
Yes, I'm not going to go back. It wasn't that I was disgusted with medicine. I loved what I did. The reason why I left is because I became obsessed with this understanding of the spiritual being, together with the physical, and how I explain that. And medicine became very uninteresting to me, because these bigger questions were influencing me.
Do those bigger questions ever arise while practicing medicine?
One of the interesting things I found in medicine was that the families who had a [Christian] background were much better equipped to deal with death and suffering. The families who had no religious background whatsoever were the most difficult people to deal with of all, because when that baby's heart stopped, that was it. There was nothing more but regret. For the Christian, that's the start of something grand.
But if death is a welcome event, what's the point of doctors?
Personally, I don't look at it that way. We live in a fallen world and things are not going to work out as planned. The way I see it, God has given me an opportunity as a physician to help that child. And our role is to take that pain and suffering and to redeem it, to work our way through it, just like Christ did.
Where are you now on your journey?
At this point, I feel like I've gotten some insight. I see faith and science as an integrated whole. We can't live in this divided state, because that's what drives people crazy. And that's why patients don't want just a physical diagnosis, because they recognize that we are spiritual/physical entities. That's why alternative medicine has become so popular.
But it makes "What's wrong with me, doc?" a much more loaded question.
It does. That's why the best physicians are the ones who sit down and talk with their patients.