The Power of Being Present

May 30, 2019 • Papua New Guinea
Dr. Daniel Dyer with patients at Kudjip Nazarene Hospital in Papua New Guinea.

Real-world ministry makes classroom training come alive for a medical resident.

Anyone who has survived medical school knows the experience can feel like a perpetual marathon—a grueling four years of mental and physical weariness—followed by another round of three to seven years of residency training.

So when Dr. Daniel Dyer needed a break from the books, he looked for a place where he could put his classroom knowledge to work in a real-world setting. During most of his medical school career at Creighton University in Nebraska, that place was a student-run clinic in the local homeless shelter.

Dr. Dyer performs a spinal tap on a young patient.

“I loved it. At the shelter I was able to put into context what I was learning in medical school,” said Dyer, who volunteered there an average of 10 hours per week. “But more than that, it kept me grounded and I was able to build relationships with people that I wouldn’t have interacted with otherwise.”

The clinics provided acute medical care, OB/GYN services, and psychiatric treatment. Since some of the patients returned for ongoing care, Dyer had the opportunity to hear their stories and glimpse their struggles.

He said the experience gave him empathy for people living on the fringes of society. “I started to look at people from a different perspective, especially people who for a variety of reasons cannot change their circumstances. I wanted to make a difference.”

That heart of compassion continues to drive the young doctor, who is now halfway through his three-year residency training program at North Colorado Family Medicine in Greeley. He chose family medicine because of the doors it opens to plug into communities and to earn the right to share the Good News of Jesus Christ.

“I wanted to make a difference.”

“Like the work I did at the homeless shelter, I am able through medicine to get to know people. That’s the power of being present, of becoming a part of their lives and winning their trust.”

Since high school, Dyer knew he wanted to do missions work, but God used a trip to Uganda in 2008 to steer his career directly toward medicine.

Working in a squalid displacement camp brought him face-to-face with men, women, and children who had endured unimaginable suffering. One day while holding a little boy in his lap, he contemplated how vastly different this youngster’s life was compared with his carefree childhood.

“God used that child to break my heart for people living in those circumstances,” he said. “I came back from that trip knowing what I wanted to do with the rest of my life.”

Dr. Dyer attends a celebration at a local church.

Dyer has served on short-term trips to Jamaica, South Africa, Zambia, India, and Nepal, but his first trip with World Medical Mission took place in December when he spent almost a month at Kudjip Nazarene Hospital in Papua New Guinea.

With a busy residency schedule, the holiday season was the only time he could squeeze in a trip. Dyer said being away from his family for the first time at Christmas was hard, but he was warmly welcomed into the homes of Kudjip’s missionary families for dinners and celebrations.

He enjoyed working with Mathew Woodley, an emergency medicine specialist, and Sheryl Uyeda, a surgeon, who are serving there for two years through World Medical Mission’s Post-Residency Program. His days were rigorous but rewarding as he assisted with surgeries, delivered babies, treated pediatric patients, and went on rounds.

The death of patients was something he was not accustomed to, especially when they were babies or children. He remembers one young woman who was pregnant with twins and went into premature labor at 19 weeks. Neither baby survived.

“That was hard. They were her first babies. But I am glad we were there to provide her a safe place to deliver and to help her deal with her loss,” said Dyer.

A call to respond to an emergency case at 1 a.m. Christmas Eve ended with much happier results.

“Both the mom and the baby made it. We called the child ‘our Christmas miracle’ at the hospital that night,” he said.

“It was confirmation to me that God placed us there for a reason, and we really do make a difference.”

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