Physicians are men and women of science. They practice the art of medicine, which means they are filled with the knowledge of biochemistry, anatomy, physiology and other sciences they apply to heal their patients’ bodies. But a patient is much more than a physical being, and so is a physician. Just ask Montgomery radiologist Mark LeQuire, M.D., FACR.
“At Baptist Health, where I work, there’s not a single board meeting, not a single committee meeting, not a single medical executive committee meeting that doesn’t start with a prayer,” LeQuire said, smiling. LeQuire has been a member of the state Medical Association’s Board of Censors for many years, and it’s difficult to think back to a time when one of those meetings didn’t begin with him leading the room in a devotional and prayer for friends and loved ones. It wasn’t always the case.
Because modern physicians are thought of as scientists who deal in hard facts drawn from what they can prove empirically, bringing faith into the treatment room is sometimes frowned upon. How can physicians also be children of faith? Better yet, how can a physician minister to a patient’s spiritual health while treating the physical being?
To know LeQuire is to know a man strong in his Catholic faith. Beneath the white coat of the physician, he wears two Christian medals – one is for his personal devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary, and the other is the medal of St. Luke, the patron saint of physicians. Coming from a long line of physicians and pastors, in his heart, LeQuire seemed to be searching for a sign to marry the two.
“God created us and gave us all a talent. In the fourth grade, we had Professions Day where everybody got to dress up and come to school as what they wanted to be. I dressed up as a doctor. My friends said I did that because my father’s a physician, and I told them that really didn’t have anything to do with it. This was my calling,” LeQuire said. “But it is interesting if you look at the LeQuire family men from our inception in the 1700s in East Tennessee, we are all either physicians or pastors. All the physicians in that line were very strong people of faith. In the early days, there wasn’t this separation of medicine and faith. I think they had it right but didn’t know it. I don’t think there should be a separation of the two. Today our medical students aren’t being taught this in school. … In fact, they’re being taught to keep the two separate. How can you separate the soul from the body when they’re the same?”
Although he was already questioning the normal procedure for practicing medicine, it was an innocent conversation with his brother followed by “an angel” that changed LeQuire’s entire world.
His brother had finished seminary and LeQuire was about to finish medical school when the two met for dinner. His brother commented, “You’re going to heal the body, and I’ll heal the soul. That sounds pretty sweet, right?”
“I’ve never forgotten that conversation because it left me so confused. That was 39 years ago, and I’ve never forgotten it. I remembered it for a reason. It’s an act of gratitude and thankfulness and praise to our Lord and our God. It led me on a journey to where I am today,” LeQuire said.
If the conversation with his brother started LeQuire on his journey, it was a Medical Association Annual Meeting in Huntsville that sealed the deal. Passively listening to the debate concerning Obamacare during the business session, LeQuire noticed an older physician approach one of the microphones. Normally during an address to the House of Delegates, physicians state their name and district before making a comment. This was not a normal day.
“This gentleman approaches the microphone during the debate where everyone is discussing Obamacare and how it’s going to affect physician payments and money and so on. And, there’s this little guy at the mic. He says, ‘Excuse me, but whatever happened to the days when it was simple and physician priests took care of their patients?’” LeQuire paused a moment, his face lit up with a huge smile. “I have no idea who he was. I have never met him. He didn’t introduce himself, and I’ve never seen him again, but I’m convinced he was an angel sent there to that meeting for me. That was everything. To this day, I still look for him. Until that moment, I was struggling with going to church on Sundays, but I can’t take my church to my work because it’s incorrect? And you can’t have God and science and you can’t be a true healer? So I decided I am allowed to bring faith into my practice.”
While there are patients who may be agnostic or atheist, LeQuire is pretty quick to spot them when he meets with them. However, the majority of his patients are people of faith and ask him to pray for and with them.
He sees a lot of patients and he remembers them all, but there’s one patient in particular LeQuire said was the “pinnacle” of his esteemed career.
The case was difficult, and the procedure was dangerous, but it would result in a cancer-free patient. He discussed the risks of the procedure with the patient and asked if he had any questions. The patient said, “No problem. We’re good to go. I’m good.” LeQuire said what gave him pause was how quickly the patient was to jump on board with the treatment plan, so he asked if he needed some time to think about the procedure, and his patient replied, “Doc, do you know why I picked you? I hear you’re the prayin’ doctor. I hear you’ll pray with me right here, before my procedure, and you’ll pray with me after my procedure. I picked you because you’re the prayin’ doctor.”
LeQuire never asks his patients to trust in him but rather to trust in God.
The journey has not been one he takes lightly or alone. He credits his wife, Gage, and mentors like Paul Nagrodski, M.D., for putting his “wheels back on the wagon.”
“Organized medicine, like being a member of the Medical Association, has been one of the greatest blessings of my life. It made me whole and complete. Come on board and find yourself. Physicians tend to get isolated by what we do every day. We need to get into organized medicine to discover ourselves. The greatest gift to me — getting into organized medicine — was that I found myself,” LeQuire said.