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Running the Race Set Before Us

Back to the Future: Part 2

by Al Weir, MD
Today's Christian Doctor - Summer 2006

Editor’s note: This is the second in a year-long series celebrating CMDA’s 75th Anniversary. The primary source for historical information will be Following the Great Physician by Dr. Bob and Marian Schindler (CMDA, 2002).

Campus and Community Ministries (CCM) actually became real for me in 1971 when I was a new medical student at the University of Tennessee in Memphis. A professor in the Department of Pharmacology, Dr. Avery, met with three or four of us on campus every few weeks in a dorm sitting room, where we studied the Bible together. I didn’t know it then, but my father had helped spearhead the Christian Medical Society (then known as CMS) work in Memphis twenty-five years earlier.

The Race Then and Now

Our work with medical students actually began with the ministry’s founding in 1931 by Chicago medical students with a heart for Christ and for foreign missions. In 1942, CMS expanded from Chicago to New York with the emphasis still on reaching medical students with fellowship, Bible study, and prayer. By 1947, CMS had become a national organization led by graduate physicians whose focus began to expand beyond student work to also include ministry to graduate doctors with the development of a journal edited by Dr. William Johnson and missions clinics for the poor. Student work became a defined branch of CMS in 1955 when Ray Knighton was the Executive Secretary. He hired Bill Ramer, an InterVarsity staff member, to lead our student efforts. Thirty students attended the first national student conference in Des Plaines, Ill., in 1955.

Graduate chapters popped up all over the country, and national conventions were well attended. What is now called Campus and Community Ministries (CCM) was formally organized into the Field Department in 1960 to cover both student ministry and ministry among practicing doctors. The field work was divided into regions with field doctors working to support new graduate doctor work while developing leaders among the student groups. Throughout the 1960s, 70s, and 80s, the field work was managed with five or six regional directors covering the entire country.

Dr. David Stevens came on board as the first physician Executive Director in 1994. With its new name of Christian Medical & Dental Associations, the ministry expanded broadly and rapidly. Ministry among students and graduate doctors’ communities expanded and changed as well. Roger Matkin became the first area director for CMDA in 1994, focusing his work in San Antonio, Texas. With a ministry focusing on one location, the ministry for students and doctors could be markedly enhanced. CMDA began utilizing area directors and associate part-time staff throughout the country. Our national membership grew rapidly in the 1990s and our impact on community graduate doctors and on students grew even more rapidly. Area directors and associate staff focused on developing fellowship, Bible studies, mission trips, and evangelism. We now have field staff of over forty doctors and ministers; an influence on 200 medical, dental, and osteopathic campuses; and, an impact of Christian ministry in nearly 100 communities of graduate doctors.

This history of Campus and Community Ministries has developed throughout my life and has impacted me personally in many ways.

From the soft-spoken, persistent appearance of the Christian pharmacy professor when I started medical school, to the car trip when our western regional director asked me to be campus advisor at the same medical school, to the present, where, after twenty years of practice in Hematology and Oncology, I find myself the director of Campus and Community Ministries for CMDA. A board of trustees who truly seek God’s will for our ministry and have a heart for students and graduate doctors define the vision and mission for CCM. My direct supervisors, Drs. David Stevens, our Executive Director, and Gene Rudd, his associate, are men of energy, vision, and kindness.

The Runners on our Team

The field staff for CCM is as varied as the spots on a leopard and each effective in their locations. We have an agreement with a number of men and women who act as associate staff, who are contracted to give one to two days a week to help with student and graduate work. Scattered across the country are ten medical and dental doctors: Darilyn Falck, Andy Sanders, Holly Daniels, Stan Cobb, Michael Roberts, Forrest Crocker, Jim Barnett, Mike Francis, Ed Read, and Eileen Ramsaran. These doctors serve from one to five days a week as ministers for CMDA in their locations. I pray regularly that God will raise up fifty more.

Most of our other field staff are seminary-trained with degrees at the masters or doctoral level. These servants are well-trained and with a heart for students and doctors.

The generals in the field are our regional directors, covering five regions:

  • Michael McLaughlin, MDiv - Western Region
  • Douglas Hornok, ThM - Central Region
  • Allan Harmer, ThM - Midwest Region
  • Scott Boyles, MDiv - Northeast Region
  • Will Gunnels, MDiv - Southeast Region

These servants supervise the work of the area directors and associate staff in the regions, but they also cover, themselves, a large number of schools and graduate doctor communities that have no local staff. These five are also the think tank for CCM. They come up with our best ideas for ministry and then put them into practice. Centrally, in Bristol, I try to coordinate their efforts, develop strategy, and pass out resources our ministers, doctors, and students can use to become more Christlike.

Our Vision

We have a grand strategy to change our world for Christ with a lot of hard work down familiar paths and some bold new initiatives. Let me lay it out for you:

  1. Focus our regional and area directors toward a major effort in establishing and equipping key graduate doctor leaders for every city with a population of over 150,000 (135 cities). We will seek to find a doctor willing to advise each class of students through the years of medical school or dental school.
  2. Identify our key graduate and student leaders throughout the country. Provide them with avenues of ministry and resources to expand their skills.
  3. Improve our overall student ministry. For decades, we have been less effective in helping our students in their clinical years than those in the basic science years. We have new plans for clinical years’ ministry focused around small discipleship groups, e-mail capabilities, and an increased availability of graduate doctors to model Christ in their presence. A terrific new student Web site was initiated in January, making it much easier, more pleasant, and more effective for students to obtain information and assistance from CMDA.
  4. Develop an effective student to resident transition. For decades, CMDA had suffered a large drop of membership after the first two student years and into the resident training years. We are actively developing a process including an improved clinical student ministry, an efficient handoff into the residency years, and an effective residency ministry. This process will work to keep CMDA’s ministry available to the students and young doctors during those transitional years.
  5. Provide help for hurting doctors. We understand that hundreds of doctors are struggling with business, family, and health issues. We want to do more to help them in their struggles. We already have in CMDA the marriage enrichment retreats and the Malpractice Commis-sion, but we believe there is much more direct help we can provide and we are actively pursuing new areas of ministry.
  6. Aggressively care for the poor. CMDA has developed a new initiative called “The 4 Percent Solution” that challenges our doctors to give 4 percent of their time or money above their church donations to care for the poor. Other organizations have joined us in this. We envision thousands of doctors stepping up to the plate and embracing the responsibility that God has handed us.
  7. Nurture our spouses. CMDA has partnered with women from a very effective spousal ministry to develop our Side By Side Ministry. We anticipate providing Bible study, spiritual, and emotional support for doctors and student wives in over a hundred communities within the next three years. This ministry will not only strengthen and build the faith of these spouses, it may well be a key to unlocking ministry for married students and residents and isolated graduate doctors who are torn between work, family, and ministry.

The Race Continues

This past December, I ran my second marathon in Jacksonville, Fla. I ran the 26-mile course eight minutes faster than I had run it six months before. However, I was still eight minutes short of the qualifying time for the Boston marathon. That’s where I see Campus and Community Ministries. CMDA has run this race for Christ for a long time. Each leg has been a victory. We are more effective in fulfilling God’s mission than ever before, but we can and must continue to work harder, work better, and run faster in the race ahead.

I have known personally many of the great leaders in the history of CMDA. They have laid the track upon which we now run. They have set the lamps in the posts to guide our way, and they remain a constant witness as we continue to follow the mandate that God first gave to them. It is our turn to run with CCM and run we will. Students will grow in Christ and doctors will grow in ministry. Patients and colleagues will meet and love the Creator who gave Himself for them. These will be the mile makers in our race as we run toward Jesus — until it’s our turn to hand off the baton.

Join us, won’t you?


Al Weir, MD