Goliath is Going Down!

I did a 24 hours shift yesterday, and I just woke up. The shift actually wasn’t that busy, but I had to do my first cesarean since this COVID-19 pandemic became official. The OR and birthing space are actually my happy places, but yesterday, for the first time in a long time—maybe since my first year of residency, I felt fear. I keep hearing, reading and seeing the reports of healthcare workers dying. I keep reading that 20-40% of pregnant women coming into NYC Labor units have tested positive for SARS-COV2.

As I put on my N95 mask, mask cover, goggles, face shield, hat, gown and gloves—all that I will need to reuse on my next shift—I silently prayed for protection and peace. Then… I got a little angry about my fear, and I started to pray a different prayer—that God would give me a heart like David, who grabbed his weapons and ran out to meet the enemy boldly declaring that God would give him victory!

Anyone who knows me knows that The Dahveed Isreal and Judah (King David) is my absolute favorite Bible character of all time. I have studied his early life, ascension, reign, battles, insecurities, decisions, and most importantly his worship and faith for years now. The Dahveed (translates as “beloved leader” or “champion”) was originally know as “Ben Gerber,” or “Son of the master” because he wasn’t acknowledged and named by his father until he was 15 years old. At that pivotal moment of acknowledgement, His father asked him his name, and he responded “Dahveed,” which was a very clever nickname his Grandmother Ruth (yes the Ruth who snagged Boaz) gave him as a child—even when he was small and insignificant, she aptly called him a “beloved leader” and “champion.” The Dahveed was a hero no one ever saw coming except the prophet Samuel, yet he confronted a giant on the battlefield who had been killing men since his boyhood. Dahveed was without proper “armor” (in those days there was no blacksmith among the tribes of Israel and Judah, so out of the whole army camped on the hill, only King Saul and his son actually had armor). Though he lacked a lot: experience, proper PPE, strong leadership, and even the support of his community, Dahveed knew who God is. He had seen firsthand what God can do, and he believed God would make him victorious. He yelled out “Who is this giant thinking he can challenge the army of the Lord?! You’re coming at me with sword and shield, but I am coming at you in the name of the Lord!” Then the Dahveed grabbed his weapons and ran out to meet the giant without hesitation! The Dahveed had the heart of a champion, but more importantly he believed in that moment, that he was everything God said he was, and that God would deliver victory.

So I remembered the calling and anointing on my life, strapped on all the recommended gear I have, walked purposefully to that OR, picked up my scalpel, and went to work. I was a sweaty mess afterward, but was so grateful to HAVE all the recommended equipment and a hospital system that provides plenty of support.

I woke up this evening with a desire to encourage my fellow healthcare providers. COVID-19 looks big. It looks like a giant we can’t possibly confront and defeat. The list of people this giant is killing grows exponentially on a daily basis. We don’t have all the right armor or equipment. Many of us are afraid and demoralized by the magnitude of this public health crisis. We are worried about protecting ourselves and those we love—I get it, and I am right in it with you. I feel the heavy weight of mental and emotional exhaustion just like you do.

Except… God has never failed me yet. I cannot believe that he has brought me to this place to leave me. However all this ends, He has to work it for my good. I’ve been through and am even now going through a lot of awful, scary, terribly painful things, and God has never abandoned me. Not. Once. We don’t know as much as I wish we knew about COVID-19, but I do KNOW this about my God: I know He has been forever faithful to me, and He will not stop now. So I decided to give up on fear and trust Him. His word says that the Godly are as bold as lions, and that His Spirit will guide us into all wisdom, because GOD gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to the scholars.

The unknown is terrifying us, defeating us in our minds before we even step out onto the battlefield. There is a reason the Bible says over and over again “do not be afraid.” Fear is paralyzing and demoralizing. Fear keeps us from thinking rationally and doing what makes good sense. Fear steals our energy and joy—and the Joy of the Lord is our STRENGTH. Fear and sustained stress weaken all our defenses—including our immune system. FEAR KILLS, HOPE STRENGTHENS.

So let’s have hope. Let’s take a chance and trust God. Let’s worship Him and thank Him that he has found us worthy to serve the suffering. Let’s petition Him for wisdom and discernment on how to proceed, what to do and when to do it. Let’s ask for his peace, protection and comfort for our patients, colleagues, families and ourselves. Let’s remember all the victories God has given us and where he has brought us from. Let’s acknowledge that this problem is too big for any one of us, but that it is “light work” for our God, who is keeping the planets in orbit and painting the beautiful evening sky I am watching right now….

Let’s raise a battle cry and run out to meet this enemy knowing that God will fight for us and add the “super” to the work we do in the natural realm. He will give us the strength to face our days. He will fortify our minds, hearts, and bodies by his spirit and by those he sends to offer us physical, mental, and emotional sustenance. He will provide the resources and ingenuity we need win this war—once the Dahveed won a battle by physically tearing down a wall to help his troops escape instead of fighting the enemy head-on!

We have become the The Dahveeds in our communities. I don’t know about you, but my spirit is screaming “Goliath is GOING DOWN!!!” I am choosing to #RefuseFearEmbraceWisdom&KeepFighting

Will you join me? We are #better2gether

Happy at Home?

https://thehumblesoles.com/blogs/justice-for-asa/justice-for-asa?fbclid=IwAR1Qi9vA3MqTjU3ccA6s7qh7gOwNw-quQrW231nCJxDhM8ZNsrHv_5FLTts

This made me physically ILL. I have considered serving as a back up physician for CPMs, but I just cannot bring myself or my medical license to do it… it’s unsafe CPMs like this that make me advise against home birth. How do you know what or who you’re getting? I know there are safe, well-trained CPMs our there, but who tracks the quality of their work and complications???

The truth is, most times a healthy woman with a healthy baby will deliver without issue wherever and with whomever is present. The OB or midwife is there to reassure the mama and help her optimize her delivery. But clearly this birth was complicated, and was clearly an MD-level delivery with meconium, elevated BP, and tachycardia?? At home?! The mom left to “fend for herself for hours on end??

I have tremendous respect for the practice of midwifery, but like any medical professional, you must KNOW YOUR LIMITS and seek help when necessary.

If we keep it real, the fact is most women don’t need a hospital and/or an OB for routine vaginal deliveries, but ANY woman can have serious complications during or after delivery that need IMMEDIATE attention. An Obstetrician trains AT LEAST 8 years, then spends another 3 years taking a written exam, collecting a year’s worth of patient cases they managed and then a grueling set of oral board exams to become board-Certified. You don’t absolutely have to have an OB for delivery. MANY babies have been delivered by family members, nurses, midwives, and family docs without any problems. But we are trained for the off the wall, totally unexpected, absolutely emergent complications that can happen. That is why although I support a woman’s autonomy over her own body and her own birth, I simply cannot fully support home births. People don’t hear the horror stories, but I LIVE them with the families and they are always tragic. The hospital and the OB you choose MATTER. You can enjoy your labor and birth comfortably in a hospital. At most hospitals, there is a lot of autonomy if you find the right hospital and doc or CNM. I ASK my patients to make a birth plan. My patients are not starved or chained to beds. They eat and move and bounce and walk. They get an epidural if and when they want. We give them plenty of time to labor, and don’t intervene unless we really need to. All babies are placed skin to skin and left there unless they are having trouble transitioning to being outside the mama. Cords are left pulsing for at least 1-2 minutes, and the the designated person cuts it–usually the father. Baths are delayed, parents must consent to vaccines, pacifiers, and formula feeding.

I think the popularity of home birth is increasing because doctors and hospitals have been painted as “money-grubbing,” “abusive”, “5pm cesarean monsters,” when in fact, many of us are not. Many of the ideals that a woman may be looking for in a home birth are available in a hospital as well, as are OBs, Pediatricians, L&D/ Nursery nurses, CRNAs, and staff who can respond to an unexpected emergency very quickly.

As evidenced by this case, it’s all about who you choose for your care, not necessarily where you deliver. This couple was CLEARY kept in the dark for 60 hours during which Ashlyn and Asa were experiencing some serious complications. To add insult to injury they paid this CPM a cost HIGHER than what an OB in GA would get paid to do a delivery, Prenatal and postpartum care… this whole situation is just messed up an so many levels, and my heart grieves for this poor couple.

One Nation

When I was in middle school, I was a patrol team member. I got to school early every morning and reverently raised the American flag. I helped lead the class in the Pledge of Allegiance Every. Single. Morning. Each afternoon once everyone had gone home, I helped take it down and folded it military style. Growing up, I had such deep respect for the ideals of our country. Baker men and women served our country for generations. I LOVED the constitution and even memorized most of it at one point. Then one day I started to realize that these ideals didn’t really apply to me— they didn’t apply to black people or women. Considering that I am both black and female, I was offended to learn that rights for me were amendments—basically “afterthoughts” that took many many years of struggle and sacrifice to obtain. As I grew into adulthood, I no longer looked at the Flag with the same innocent eyes, and I no longer gave my pledge with the same conviction—right hand crushed to my heart with eyes glued to the flag, immensely proud of my country— because I had seen and experienced enough to know that “One Nation under God, indivisible, with Liberty and Justice for ALL” just isn’t true. I was then, and I am still sooo gravely disappointed. I can’t wrap my mind around the level of fear, hatred and evil that would make someone open fire in a church or in the aisles of Walmart. What sense of intimidation makes it ok to try and oppress/suppress an entire gender, race, or identity??

Have we forgotten that America’s greatness lies in its diversity of people, ideas and skills? The saddest thing is that we betray our heavenly Father by claiming to be a “nation under God.” We are an entire country of delusional people if we think for one second that God is invested in or pleased with the way we treat each other in the USA.

This month, my sorority, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. has our International Day of pray. As we prepare for this special time of corporate prayer, I am going to be praying each day for our country. Its leadership, laws, safety, children, churches, but most importantly, I will be praying for its HEART. That God intervene in the hearts and affairs of men and turn our country’s heart back to Him. That He mold us into “One Nation” under His leadership. I will be praying that He give us his eyes to see each other they way He sees us, that He give us patience and tolerance to bear with one another’s weaknesses and/or differences. I will be petitioning Yahweh for an infusion of Holy Spirit in every individual who claims to be a follower of Christ. My Grandma Ruth used to say, “don’t play around when you call on the name of the Lord, because He will show up!” So I am asking him to “show up” in every individual, every church, every home, every office building and public place, every school, every nook corner and cranny of this nation until we are changed by His presence– so we can become the nation of leaders and examples that we should be.

I invite you

The Renewing of Your Mind

Since I was very young, I’ve loved to study the Bible. As an adult, I’ve only become more fascinated with the Word–especially in its historical, social, linguistic, and cultural contexts. Hands down, the book of Romans is my fave book of the New Testament. Paul really breaks down salvation so it remains forever and consistently “broke.” In Romans 12:2 he gets on this point of “being transformed by the renewing of your mind.”

I like the New Living Translation best:

“Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.”

‭‭Romans‬ ‭12:2‬ ‭NLT‬‬

https://www.bible.com/116/rom.12.2.nlt

In essence, Paul is saying that in order to live your best life, you gotta “get your mind right.” We cannot live the life God intends for us when our minds are stuck on the hamster wheel of “what if” worries, and stuffed with useless, often false information that we take in from various forms of media all day.

As a women’s health physician and surgeon, I have noticed an alarming increase in the number of people with depression and/or anxiety over the past 5-7 years. It’s at pandemic proportions! I am convinced that the excess of media in all forms is a huge contributor to this phenomenon. We are living in the “Information Age,” where information of all sorts is at our fingertips, and notifications buzz, vibrate and ring all day to alert us of new information available. We are constantly in information overload. Have you ever noticed how a lot of the information we take in has a negative connotation?

Bearing witness to so many women, especially pregnant women, who are suffering in their MINDS prompted me to really start looking at that phrase “renewing your mind.”

I have become convinced that anxiety, depression, stress, and insomnia are likely the most dangerous family of symptoms affecting my patient population. Last September, I started a Fellowship (extra training for practicing doctors in a particular area related to their field) in Transformational Health Leadership. It’s a National fellowship sponsored by Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA). The idea was to learn how to develop and implement Quality Improvement in my clinic and hospital settings. Given my concern for the mental health of my patients, I chose to focus on improving the quality of care in mental health services for pregnant women in our clinic. My project is simple: screening more for anxiety and depression during and immediately after pregnancy and offering counseling resources and medical treatment to women who screen positive.

Renewing your mind takes work.

We often don’t even realize how much we are focused on negative things that have happened to us (trauma) and the negative things that MIGHT happen to us (worry). Somehow, when we get stuck replaying our “woes and what ifs,” we easily forget what God says. We forget that the finished work of the cross declares us victorious; that we have the mind and power of Christ; that God did not give us the Spirit of fear, but of power, love and a SOUND MIND. We forget that God sustained us through our past, and he will sustain us in our future–whatever comes! We have to do the work of reminding ourselves who God is, and therefore who we are. When we remember that every promise is tested and every word God has shared with us is true, we slowly begin to pull our minds out of the rotation of anxious and hopeless thoughts.

Renewing our minds is the most important thing we can do for the sake of our lives and our family’s lives. Recognize now that the enemy is not after your “stuff” he is not too concerned with your kids, your job, your marriage, your house or your car– the enemy is after your mind!!! If he keeps you wallowing in anxiety and hopelessness, YOU WILL GIVE AWAY all your “stuff!” You will not see or understand God’s intention and provision for an abundant, fruitful life. You will believe the lies that you aren’t enough, that you simply can’t make it, that nothing but negative will befall you… you will just give up and allow your adversary to steal, kill, and destroy your relationships, your health, your family, your career, and your finances at will.

The work of renewing our minds is difficult. First, we must admit that there is a problem. One thing I’ve noticed since I’ve been doing more screening for Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders is that many women have been in denial–it’s the hormones, or the other kids, or my job or my partner’s short comings. When I begin to probe those ladies with positive depression/anxiety screens, almost immediately there are tears. Some flow from a place of embarrassment, but most from a place of release–an admission that they are just “not ok right now.”

Once we have made an admission, it creates space for help from the Holy Spirit, counselors, and/or medications, and it opens our minds to the possibility that life can be better if we decide to take our thoughts captive and allow God to renew our minds.

After just a few weeks of seeing such a need for better mental healthcare for pregnant women, I decided that the Transformational Health Leaders Fellowship was not enough training for me. I decided to pursue a special certification in Perinatal Mental Health so I can do a better job for my patients. I’ve learned so much going to trainings and listening to the stories of women. I am so glad I was led to this project by the Holy Spirit.

We are all now seeing the impact of our country’s poor investment in maternal physical and mental healthcare systems. It’s showing up in our maternal death rates, but also in our divorce/separation rates, our rates of reported behavioral disturbances in schools, our rates of lost productivity in the workplace, our rates or poor school performance and reading levels, etc. The list goes on an on. Healthy women– women who are fit physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually–are the key to a healthy society, and I believe wellness STARTS in the MIND.

Let’s change the way we think, ladies. Then we will change our world.

Prescription-Strength Prayer

As a medical student, I was taught that religion and spirituality have a definite place in the treatment room. Not in the judgmental, fire-breathing, hell and brimstone sort of way, but in the sense that patients who have faith in a higher, benevolent power have been proven over and over again to have better outcomes. In my pre-clinical years, we took a course called “Human Values.” There, we learned that the patient’s religion had a place in their treatment, and we were only to mirror their beliefs back to them to help give hope in times of sickness.

So when the question was asked on exams, I marked the “correct answer,” but now, as a practicing physician, I don’t believe that answer anymore. In fact, I KNOW it to be wrong. My faith is with me wherever I go! If you are a patient of mine, you are prayed for regularly, whether you are a Believer or not.

I respect all people, cultures, races, religions, sexual preferences—you name it! I believe in the free will that God has given us to make choices, and I would not try to force anyone to choose what I have chosen. Conversely, just as I believe that everyone else deserve freedom to practice and share their faith openly as long as it does no harm to others, I believe that I have the very same right, and so I exercise it.

There are many conditions that I treat with medications all day. Prescriptions abound, but what about things that there are no prescriptions for?

Women often suffer from the memories that haunt us; from guilt and shame that plays over and over in our minds about the times we didn’t get it right or weren’t there for a loved one. We will continuously replay the mental Lifetime movie of every painful drama in our lives until it eventually manifests itself as a physical ailment, bitterness, depression/anxiety, a shopping addiction, or even obesity.

What kinda prescription do I write for that???!

Well, prayer. I pray. I speak God’s promises over our lives. In 2 Kings 20:5, a sick prophet was crying out to God because he didn’t want to die with his live in the shape that it was in—the Bible says he needed to “set his house in order.” The Lord responds to him saying “I have heard your prayer, I have seen your tears. Surely I will heal you.” Wow! If I humble myself before God to intercede for my patients He will hear my prayers and He will intervene within His will for their lives. Better still, if I can encourage those who are Believers to strengthen their own faith and submit their petitions before God themselves, in supplication and with thanksgiving, He will surely hear them and answer them!

By now, some people are wondering if I am a “faith healer.” The answer to that question is yes! I certainly believe that my faith has gone much further than my medical treatments in some patients. I practice evidence-based medicine and surgery because that is what I am called to do. I prescribe medications and perform procedures and surgeries along with my prayers, but it is sometimes difficult to tell which does the most good.

One thing I do know with all certainty, prayer changes ME so that I can BE THE CHANGE that I want to see. And if you knew me “back when,” then you know that that in itself is a miracle of healing.

Impossible? I’m Possible!

The President and Dean of my medical school always says “look at the person or situation in front of you, and think ‘what’s possible.’” What a simple, yet profound statement. I have heard her say it about 100 times, and each times it challenges me to look at people, situations, disease processes, and even my problems from new angles.

Most recently, I heard her say it while giving a commencement address, and this time, I really zeroed in on the “what’s,” or “what IS possible.” Asking what IS possible, focuses attention on the positive and sets our sights on finding solutions rather than on the problem.

Whenever I am faced with a seemingly “Impossible” patient care issue—when I feel stuck, or stumped—I seem to hear that stately lady’s calm, southern intonation in my head: “Based on who or what is in front of you right now, WHAT’S POSSIBLE?” I regroup. I rethink. I refocus. I remember that I can do ALL THINGS through Christ (Phil. 4:13), and “all” does mean ALL!

So I start doing what I can do. If it is a surgery that looks “impossible” because of the size or scar tissue or level of difficulty, I start restoring the normal anatomy—just setting the tissues back into a logical order as much as possible. Most of the time, once I get done with this, the case magically starts to open up for me! I can see all sorts of possibilities that I did not see before, and my approach is more straightforward.

I believe that the same is true in our lives. When we are faced with the “impossible,” we cannot just accept defeat! Instead, we gotta find that part of “impossible” that is possible, and START DOING that. I know that God wants to bless us in whatever we do, but DO is the keyword here… If we never get off the couch, what is He going to bless? The HBO Fall movie line up?

Each of us has a purpose to fulfill. There was a thought that God was thinking when he formed us in the womb, and a calling that He breathed into us with that first breath we took (likely in the hands of a friendly OB/GYN). Now, I am definitely no Theologist, but I think that the dreams we have, the passions that stir us, our conscience, and “instincts” are the remnants of memories in our Spirit from when it was with God before he assigned us to a natural body. Then, I think, we knew our purpose and our power; but as we grow into adulthood in a physical world with limitations, we learn about “impossible.” We stop believing in the supernatural because we are often burdened by the natural problems, worries, sicknesses, and disappointments we face. We tell ourselves that we aren’t _______ enough: fill in smart, rich, attractive, thin, big, light, dark, male, female, loved, stable, “good,” whatever our insecurities are to live our dream. This doubt is often a bi-product of what people have said to us in the past… but what does God say? More importantly, whose report will you choose to believe??? (Rom. 3:4)

Often I am reminded of the story of Joshua and Caleb, 2 of the 12 spies sent to check out the land that God had promised to Israel after their miraculous delivery from slavery in Egypt. The other 10 spies reported that taking the land of Canaan was “impossible” because of all of the people and odds that were against them. Joshua and Caleb had a different report, though. They saw what WAS POSSIBLE. They reported about the richness of the land that had been promised by God, and reminded the people that there was no need to be afraid to take possession of God’s promise because GOD was with them! (Numbers 14)

So as July comes to an end, I want remind us (ok, really meJ) to boldly grab hold to God’s promises and trust Him to deliver on them. To do the “impossible,” we only have to start doing what is possible right now. I loved what Bishop TD Jakes said once: “If we do what we can in the natural, God will add His SUPER onto it so it becomes ‘Supernatural’.”

As the people of Israel prepared to claim the Promised Land, God told Joshua “Every place you set your foot, you will be on land I have given you.” (Josh. 1:3)

What if Joshua had just chilled out around his tent? Yes, he would have missed a lot of battles, but he would have missed more blessings and an entire Nation would have been lost.

What has God given you that has gone unclaimed? Who in this generation or the next is depending on you to do what has been weighing on your heart but seems “impossible?”

One of my fave fashion icons, Audrey Hepburn, said “Nothing is Impossible, the word itself says ‘I’m Possible.” When I read that, I took it apart just as I did my med school President’s statement—‘I Am Possible’ and I immediately thought of God as “I AM”—For He truly is the one who makes all things possible.

Possess you promise now by starting to do what you can, and add some SUPER to your natural!

Women: Our wealth, our world

At least once a day, I get the question: “Why did you go into OB/GYN?” Ninety percent of the time the question is posed by a woman, who can’t possibly understand why I enjoy spending my days (any many nights) doing what many would call the “gross” work of delivering babies, providing cervical cancer screening, and caring for a long list of other nebulous issues most commonly dubbed “female problems.” I will be first to admit that Obstetrics and Gynecology was not my original career goal. In fact, on my first OB/GYN experience as a 1st year med student, I was cringed so far in the corner, I almost became part of the floral print wallpaper. As a senior student, however, it dawned on me that everything I was most passionate about was connected to Women’s Health. So after some soul searching and a lot of prayer, I took the giant leap from General Surgery to OB/GYN. I couldn’t be happier with that decision today.

Coco Chanel once said “Some women are born with glitter in their veins.” I know this quote because my medical school roommate says it always makes her think of me. I am 100% G-I-R-L. Sparkles, lace and lip gloss. High heels, accessories, and nail polish. I love all things lady and lovely. I knew I would change my specialty when my Dean told me to be considered for a job, I should stop with the weekly baking of cupcakes in the General Surgery Department, and to tone down the pink. One practical reason I chose OB/GYN is that it embraces all things feminine, yet it’s filled with surgery and procedures. I have yet to have one patient complain about my penchant for pink, and no one complained about my weekly baking on Labor and Delivery once during my residency. We dressed well, and you might find someone having their hair flat ironed in the resident’s lounge in preparation for a Friday night out. OB/GYN was certainly the place for me!

There are other reasons that this field calls to me, though. I truly believe that women are the center of our world. Take a moment to reflect on that. Without women, where would you be? Would you be at all? Mothers and women are at the heart of families, communities, cities, states, and our countries. They are our first nurturers, teachers, loves, protectors, providers, cheerleaders and friends. If we consider all of the great leaders who have been and who now are, how many credit their success to the women in their lives?

Women are the guardians of life. The sacred Eden in which modern-day creation takes place is inside of our bodies, and women alone are entrusted with the task of carrying and delivering human life—how amazing is that?!

This is why I count it such a privilege to care for women: they are the epicenter. If I can help a woman have a healthy pregnancy and delivery, then she will be more likely to remain healthy and to have a healthy child who will grow up strong. If I can teach a woman with high cholesterol to make more healthful choices, then her husband and family will also be more likely to eat better and exercise as well. If I can encourage one woman to get her mammogram, she will encourage her sisters and girlfriends to have their mammograms. If I can breakdown what is really happening during puberty and the menstrual cycle for one teenager, she will break it down to her bffs so that one day, they will teach their daughters. If I can help one woman seek help for depression or mental illness, she will tell other women that they too can be free. If I can empower one woman, she will empower all those within her reach.

Well women will only improve the health and wealth of our communities and our world. And although I do like wearing all the pink I can stand, doing surgery, and catching cute babies; knowing that I am blessed to have the opportunity of making some small impact on the world—one woman at a time—is the real reason I felt led to choose OB/GYN

 

joy is a  small-town OB/GYN