Dr. Walt Teaches “Spirituality Plays Key Role” at Annual Medical Conference in Ecuator

Last month Barb and I were privileged to travel to Quito, Equator to participate in a medical mission trip and for me to teach at a large international medical conference. Here’s an article from HCJB Global about my teaching and the conference:

Much more than “Aaahh” can often be heard from a patient. In fact, many groans or sighs reveal spiritual needs and patients would give the gospel a hearing if only asked, according to Dr. Walt Larimore.

Healthcare professionals should treat medically when indicated, but it’s “equally appropriate to recognize patients’ spiritual needs and then begin the process of starting to treat them or refer to someone who can,” said Larimore. He is a U.S. family physician, author and HCJB Global board member who spoke at the 24th annual Jornadas Médicas (medical conference) in Quito, Ecuador, Jan. 24-28.

One of more than 60 physicians who gave presentations during the event, Larimore told attendees that in the last century, a physical/spiritual dichotomy has fostered physical treatment only. His book, The Saline Solution, outlines principles of uniting the exam room with evangelism.

With a theme of family practice medicine, the continuing education event was titled, “Updating Competencies in Family and Community Medicine.” More than 500 attended the conference in Quito with nearly 700 others participating in virtual classrooms across Ecuador via satellite.

In another session, Ecuadorian physician Dr. Jonny Macías acknowledged the potential controversy, prompted by his lecture, “When Cancer Screening for the Aged Should Cease.” A graduate of Central University’s medical school in Quito, Macías said he hoped his talk would help healthcare professionals take both quality and quantity of life into account before ordering screenings for geriatric patients.

“There are still a lot of questions on when to stop [screening] and how to determine which patients will benefit or have a reason to do this type of screening,” he said. It was his first presentation at Jornadas Médicas.

Pulmonologist Dr. John Boldt gave a hands-on breakout session called “Spirometry and Peak Flow” at Hospital Vozandes-Quito where he taught medicine while serving as an HCJB Global missionary in Ecuador.

In addition to providing learning opportunities, the conference also gives attendees a chance to reconnect with colleagues. Boldt, for example, met with his longtime friend and missionary retiree Dr. Wally Swanson, 83, who lives in Quito. Short of breath in the high altitude, Swanson received a nebulizer treatment as the two visited. Swanson’s missionary service began at Hospital Vozandes-Shell 50 years ago.

For Farah Cuadros and Ornella Grijalva, the event offered more than they could take in. As a future doctor, I’m here to urge on my understanding,” said Cuadros, “and besides that, to increase knowledge along with others attending.”

“It’s important to know that medicine does not just focus on the scientific but also on a holistic approach toward all of a person’s systems,” Cuadros continued. “We’re learning here that a person isn’t just sick, but also that behind [that illness] are causes of the sickness. These causes are not only biological; they’re also social, psychological and spiritual.”

You can read an interview with me in a related blog, “Interview: Medical Journalist Says Exam Room Evangelism Opportunities Abound.”