What is a physician? What is a doctor?7 min read

Why would I feel the need to answer such a question, let alone propose such a question?

Because, there is tremendous advocacy confusion amongst doctors today.

Who are we as physicians?

What is our professional origin?

What is our purpose?

Who do we serve?

Physicians have lost all perspective in this arena because of what I call advocacy confusion. Because we physicians have lost our focus, we have lost our purpose.

Docēre is Latin for doctor which can be translated teacher. Rāphè is Hebrew for physician which can be translated healer. The Latin word médicus as an adjective can be translated to mean healing or medical, or as a noun physician or doctor. The word root of the word disease is from the two words, ‘dis’, meaning lack of or without, and ‘-aise’, meaning wellness. Thus disease, or better dis- aise, is simply the lack of wellness.

Let’s look at the ultimate physician, Jesus, to answer these question. In following Jesus, I believe there are 4 key principles that are cornerstones to being a physician:

  • Healer
  • Teacher
  • Leader
  • Servant

I want to highlight what the Bible records about these 4 key principles of Jesus that should serve as guiding principles to restore physicians to their original purpose.

Healer

How many times does the Bible speak of Jesus directly as healer, healing, healed or heal with reference to people? Though, there is not a direct reference to Jesus as “healer” by others or by himself, there is direct reference to “healing”, “healed”, and “heal” by Jesus. More, the Bible references masses of people seeking Jesus out, where ever he traveled for the purpose of being healed by Jesus. The spread of Jesus’ healings were the the first hashtag, the first viral communication, the first trending movement. As such, it is crystal clear that the people saw Jesus as a healer. As such, Jesus was a healer.

How many references to Jesus healing people, with or without reference to the words healer, healing, healed, or heal?

Heal

  • “The kingdom of heaven is at hand. Heal the sick…”

—Matthew 10:8

  • “When the centurion heard about Jesus, he sent to him elders of the Jews, asking him to come and heal his servant.”

—Matthew 7:3

Healed

  • “When he went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them and healed their sick.”

—Matthew 14:14.

  • “That evening at sundown they brought to him all whose were sick or oppressed by demons. And the whole city was gathered together at the door. And he healed many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons.”

—Mark 1:32-34

  • “And he went throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdoms and healing every disease and every affliction among the people.”

—Matthew 4:23

  • “So his fame spread throughout all Syria, and they brought him all the sick, those afflicted with various diseases and pains, those oppressed by demons, epileptics, and paralytics, and he healed

—Matthew 4:24

  • “…But say the word, and let my servant be healed.”

—Matthew 7:7

In several of the scriptures above, there are accompanied references to “many”, “every”, and “all the sick”. The implication is that on many occasions, when Jesus was healing, He was healing the many, the masses, every individual with every ailment, and all the sick. Overall, there are forty-three different recordings of Jesus’ healing of people and their ailments.

Hebrew was the native tongue of Jesus. It is no coincidence that the Hebrew word for physician, Rāphè, can be translated as healer. It is clear honor and recognition of the source as healing and the ultimate healer.

Teacher

Jesus was actually called rabbi, or teacher, by followers, by the Pharisees, and by his disciples:

  • “And behold, a man came up to him, saying, Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?”

—Matthew 19:16

  • “But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all brothers.”

—Matthew 23:8

  • “Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. This man came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God…”

—John 3:1-2

More than what others called him, Jesus actually referred to himself as a teacher:

  • “You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.”

—John 13:13-14

Taught

  • “…for he taught them as one who had authority…”

—Mark 1:22

  • “…And they will all be taught by God.”

—John 6:45

  • “Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down, his disciples came to him. And he opened his mouth and taught them…”

—Matthew 5:1-2

Teaching

  • “And they went into Capernaum, and immediately on the Sabbath he entered the synagogue and was teaching.”

—Mark 1:21

  • “And they were astonished at his teaching…”

—Mark 1:22

  • “If anyone’s will is to do God’s will, he will know whether the teaching is from God or whether I am speaking on my own authority.”

—John 7:17

Leader

Similar to the healer, there is no direct reference to Jesus by himself or by others as a leader. However, an individual that has followers has to be defined as a leader.

The word follow or followed is referenced by other of Jesus numerous times:

  • “And he said to them, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.”

—Matthew 4:19

  • “Then Jesus told his disciples, If anyone would come after me (follow), let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow

—Matthew 16:24

  • “If anyone serves me, he must follow me…”

—John 12:26

  • “And he said to them, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men. Immediately they left their nets and followed

—Matthew 4:19-20

Jesus referenced himself indirectly as a leader, as a shepherd, in the parable of the shepherd and the sheep in John 10:4, “when he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice.”

Jesus Christ, created the greatest religious movement in the history of the world. A movement whereby people have given their lives to Jesus in literal life and death. Many of his initial twelve disciples followed him in torture and death through brutal means.

For centuries, many have followed Jesus in life and to their unfortunate deaths. No matter how one views that, Jesus can only be called the greatest leader that has ever walked the earth.

Funny thing and no surprise as to why, He created the earth.

Servant

Jesus is either directly or indirectly referenced as a servant or to serve in the bible.

  • “…while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant

—Acts 4:30

  • “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant…”

—Philippians 2:5-7

Ultimately, the declaration of Jesus as a servant is summed up in:

  • “…even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

—Matthew 20:28

If the creator and savior of the world can come to serve, then surely a physician, a doctor, and the practice of medicine as a whole can model themselves after Christ and serve. If it is good enough for Jesus, it should be good enough for the medical field as a whole as for physicians and doctors individually.

The problem of whom to serve is another discussion altogether. The misplacement of service by the physician to hospitals, government, politicians, medical bureaucracies, insurance companies, and essentially everything but the patient, points to the advocacy confusion that is so prevalent in medicine today. Physicians, doctors, and medicine as a whole have forgotten whom they serve. A reflection on Jesus can help to restore the focus.

 

It is clear to declare that medicine, physicians, and doctors, are in a crisis of purpose. The COVID-19 pandemic is proof of that. What medicine, physicians, and doctors need to do is return to the perfect example of healer, teacher, leader, and servant. It is only through this original reflection on purpose through an examination of Jesus, can this sinking ship be saved. It is ironic that Jesus as the Savior of the world is also the Savior of medicine, physicians, and doctors. It simply requires acknowledgment that Jesus is the only way forward for medicine, physicians, and doctors.

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