On Serving the Poor with the Capuchin Franciscans

July 29, 2012

In August 2006, I loaded up my car in suburban Chicago with some meager belongings and began my trip to Baltimore, MD.  The solo 13 hour drive afforded me the luxury of reflecting what brought me to that point, of how I came to leave my home, my family and friends, to begin a year of volunteer service with the Capuchin Franciscans in a city that I had only visited once.

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January 18, 2012

In a recent panel discussion at my medical school, the issue of how religion and spirituality affect the way a physician provides care came up.  The general consensus of the panelists was that the physicians should work hard at compartmentalizing their beliefs in order to provide unbiased care to their patients. This conclusion is alarming because of the far-reaching implications this approach could have on patient care.

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Encountering IUDs

December 31, 2011

MYTH: IUDs are abortifacient. Isn’t that good to know? That was the title of a slide in one of my pharmacology lectures during my gynecology unit.

In no other class is the pharmacology taught in a way that is reminiscent of an attorney aggressively defending his client in court. With no other medications are the adverse effects casually dismissed as they are with hormonal contraceptives.

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A Note of Farewell from the Outgoing Officers

December 13, 2011

As we make the transition from the old officers to the new officers, we would like to share a few thoughts about our time serving the CMA-SS.

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Conscience Battle Rages in NJ, Outcome Will Affect All

November 15, 2011

The fight for conscience rights continues.  Over the past few weeks, a group of nurses, aided by the Alliance Defense Fund, has stood against the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey.  These nurses have stated that the hospital established a policy that forced them to assist in abortions at the hospital.  If they refused, their jobs would be on the line.  Many of us who have been concerned about conscience rights continue to watch this case closely, for it could be the harbinger of what may come in the future.  Over the past few years, we have seen the rights of pharmacists eroded quite openly, followed by cases of nurses' rights being taken away.  After the case in New York, we now have this case.  How much longer before there are outright attacks on physicians?  Or medical students? 

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NC Register Interviews CMA Member Dr. Eda Joanne Angelo

November 07, 2011

Check out the National Catholic Register's interview with Dr. Eda Joanne Angelo, a Catholic Medical Association member and prolife physician.  What a testimony to life and serving those who have been forgotten and ignored by the medical community.

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ADF Protects Conscience Rights in New Jersey

November 07, 2011


The Alliance Defense Fund once again has helped protect conscience rights, at least temporarily.  A New Jersey Hospital recently began telling nurses that they would be required to assist in abortions or risk losing their jobs.  Now if this wasn't a blatant violation of conscience rights, then I don't know what is.  However, the ADF stepped in a filed an injunction, and at least for now, the nurses are safe.  The hospital cannot implement this new policy.  Please read the story over at ADF's website.  This is a very big case because this is one of the most direct attacks on conscience rights we have seen in some time.   This hospital is affiliated with the medical school in New Jersey, and one has to wonder how long it would be before a similar policy was implemented for medical students.  WE all need to keep an eye on this story, because it can have many implications in the near future.


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An Open Letter To Christian Medical Students

October 18, 2011

An Open Letter to All Christian Medical Students

Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

            Many of you find yourselves on a journey of uncertainty.  At no time in history has the landscape of health care been more capricious.  As with any time of significant change, fear and insecurity are plentiful as the path of the unknown is traveled.

            As we examine historical periods of change within health care, we see a distancing and devaluing of the sacred relationship that had existed between the physician and his or her patient.  Ever since the age of enlightenment, facets of health care that could not be proven empirically were relegated to magic, superstition, or sheer luck. 

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A Reflection on 2011 CMA Conference

October 16, 2011

This year’s national conference could not have come at a better time in my medical school career, a time when I am nervous about choosing my specialty and honestly struggling to balance my work responsibilities with the time needed to lead a fulfilling, God-centered life. I feel like God placed this 3 days of conference right where I needed them to re-center my purpose in medicine and to rededicate myself to a life centered around Christ. I once read that it is the most important things in life that we need reminded of most often. This conference was my reminder.

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Talk Given at Franciscan University of Steubenville: Being Catholic In Med School

October 10, 2011


This talk was given by Brian J Burke at Franciscan University of Steubenville on October 7th, 2011.  Mr. Burke is a fourth year medical student at the University of Toledo College of Medicine, and has served as the Vice President of the CMA-SS for the past year and a half.  He will be pursuing a career as a family physician, and will begin his training this coming summer.  Mr. Burke graduated from Franciscan University of Steubenville in 2007 with a degree in biology and theology.


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UPDATED Contraception and HIV Risk Raises Need for Alternative of NFP AND Better Maternal Care

October 05, 2011

“Safe and effective family planning services are central to initiatives to reduce uninteneded pregnancies, promote economic development, and improve the health of women and children worldwide.”  But what if one of the most common forces of family planning methods in Africa was actually increasing the transmission of HIV in heterosexual couples?  This was the conclusion of a very recent article published in The Lancet Infectious Diseases journal.   This article, entitled “Use of hormonal contraceptives and risk of HIV-1 transmission: a prospective cohort study” was published by group of researchers from the University of Washington

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Brain Dead Patients as Research Subjects

October 01, 2011


It is common knowledge that there are many, many individuals in need of organ transplants.  The numbers are truly staggering.  The waiting list is up to 112,391 individuals as of 9/30 6:48pm.   What is society to do?  Is there a way in which those individuals who have been declared ‘brain dead’ and yet cannot donate organs could bring about a solution? 


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Seizing Opportunity

September 26, 2011

This past week, I had a wonderful opportunity laid before me, and I almost let it slip from my grasp.  I had another lesson in the importance of continuing to speak the truth at every opportunity, especially when the circumstances are in my favor.  So to start, a little background: For the past month I have been working on the Family medicine inpatient service at a local hospital.  This hospital has one of the three family medicine residencies in Toledo, and I was on my sub-internship, so the hours were pretty busy and the days long. On Wednesday of each week, we have a couple hours of lecture, and this past week was no different. 

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Contraception Mandate is Latest Attack on Conscience Rights

September 18, 2011

Once again, our rights are being eroded.  I wrote back in February about how the current administration, through executive fiat via the Department of Health and Human Services, is chipping away at the conscience rights of providers.  This past August, HHS announced the new “contraception mandate” that would require all insurance plans to cover contraception (including the morning after pills) and sterilization as part of ‘preventive services.’    There is only a very narrow religious exemption for this mandate, and it would not apply to a majority of organizations.  Moreover, there is no exemption for individuals who have moral objection in this regard.  A majority of Catholic entities sponsoring health plans for employees and the like would be forced to cover contraception, abortifacients and sterilization.   For this reason, the Bishops of the United States have been very vocal in their opposition to this mandate, going so far as to put together a detailed report and sending it to HHS and Kathleen Sebelius.

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MaterCare Day 4 Part 2 MCI in the Field

September 07, 2011

I started the previous post about the last day of the MaterCare conference by discussing NaPro Technology as one of the solutions to reestablishing true obstetrics care.  I would like to finish my post about that day by next discussing more specifically what MaterCare International has been doing.

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MaterCare Day 4 Part 1 NFP as a Solution

September 06, 2011

Greetings in Christ! I am happy to say that I have safely returned to the States after a full day of traveling.  The last full day of the conference was an excellent one, filled with good news from multiple people.  The talks on this day offered concrete examples of solutions that were working around the world. 

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MaterCare Day 3 What We Are Facing

September 02, 2011

Greetings from Rome!  Another beautiful day in Rome has passed, filled with many excellent talks.  Whereas yesterday we focused much on the call that we have received and how we are to take steps to answer, today’s sessions elaborated on what some of the problems are. 

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MaterCare Conference Day 2 A Sign of Contradiction

September 01, 2011

Greetings in Christ! Today was day two of the MaterCare International Conference.  I decided this morning to attend mass at the Basilica of St. Peter, and so I met my brother-in-law and we were able to hear a Polish mass said at the tomb of Blessed John Paul II.  While praying during mass, I could not help but reflect upon John Paul’s mission to the youth.  He rightly recognized that it is the youth who have the greatest ability to change the world, and who have a responsibility to act upon this ability.  So many young adults have been inspired to go into the world to spread the Truth in areas of great darkness.  One are of great concern to the late Holy Father was medicine.  So much so that he created the Pontifical Academy of Life to help keep himself informed by the best and brightest from around the world concerning new technologies.    It has become evident that over time medicine has lost its guiding light and now so much of the wonderful knowledge is being misused....

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MaterCare Conference Day 1

August 31, 2011

The Lord be praised! I write to you all from the Vatican after the first evening session of the MaterCare International 8th annual meeting.  This year the conference is focusing on “The Dignity of Mothers and Obstetricians: Who on Earth Cares!”  That last part may be a bit jarring for most, and rightly so.  In the words of Bogdan Chazan, chairman of the Matercare International Advisory Council:

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CMA SS is Traveling to Rome

August 30, 2011


This evening, the VP of the CMA-SS is off to Rome for a few days to cover the MaterCare International 8th Annual Conference titled "Dignity of Mothers and Obstetricians-Who on Earth Cares".  The conference is going to be held Instituto Maria Bambina, which is located right off of St. Peter's Square at the Vatican.  We encourage you to follow the above link and check out the schedule and speakers, and then to continue to check the blog over the next week for postings about the conference and the trip to the Vatican.  Also, don't forget to follow us on Twitter @Cathmedstudents and on facebook ( during this trip.  Brian will be posting updates on talks and the events throughout the conference. 

Most of all, your prayers are appreciated during this time of travel! 

In Christ,

CMA-SS Officers


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A Family in Medical School

August 07, 2011

I am constantly asked by a variety of people how I am able to handle a family during medical school.  My short answer is: very carefully and deliberately.  However, it is so much more than that.  As we enter into a new school year, I think this is very important for us to consider.  As Catholics, we have a different understanding of the concept of vocation than most of our culture.  For many, the primary vocation determination is along the lines of religious, married, or single life.  From there we find a vocation in a profession.  And so, for those of us called to a vocation in medicine, we have to also consider how the Lord is calling us to live our life beyond just what work we do.  

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Natural Family Planning is NOT Catholic Contraception

July 25, 2011

One of the great misperceptions of our culture is that natural family planning is simply Catholic contraception.  This stems from a complete misunderstanding of the nature and end of the marital embrace.  One of the key differences between NFP and contraception is the fact that natural family planning works WITH the body and not against it, like artificial contraception.  Another reason is the Telos of sex.  For this, I invite you to read Father Tad Pacholczyk's article.  The first part is below with a link at the end to finish.


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Why Natural Family Planning Should Be a Part of Marriage Preparation

July 18, 2011

With Natural Family Planning (NFP) Awareness Week coming up (July 24-July 30), we wanted to share a few thoughts on NFP.  As a teaching couple, we have heard many arguments for and against NFP and whether or not it should be a mandatory part of marriage preparation.  One of the great misunderstandings concerning NFP is that many individuals consider its purpose to be only a natural method to avoid pregnancy.  Now, NFP is extremely useful and efficient in this regard, but in reality, learning about NFP and Fertility Awareness is so much more than simply learning how to avoid pregnancy.  So let us look at a few reasons why learning NFP is so important in our day and age.

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And We’re Back!

July 18, 2011

After a brief summer break to allow for some travel and exam preparations, the blogging is back on!  Next week is NFP Awareness Week, and so you can anticipate a couple more blog posts focusing on that theme!

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The Medicinal Gifts of the Holy Spirit

June 14, 2011

We are currently in the Octave of Pentecost, a time of celebrating the descent of the Holy Spirit and the wonderful gifts the Spirit gives to us.  These gifts are so important to the physician in caring for a patient, and as caregivers, we must take a moment and pray that the Holy Spirit will come upon us.  Let us reflect on how the gifts of the Holy Spirit are pertinent to our profession:

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A Note from Joe

June 06, 2011

This note is from a young man who was recently diagnosed with Ewing's Sarcoma.  I encourage you to read through this, thinking about how you yourself would respond if you found yourself in his shoes.  Then I would ask for you to pray for this young man, that, in his words, God may be glorified through him.

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A Reflection on a OB/GYN Rotation by Gil Harmon

May 27, 2011


I’ve just completed my OB/GYN rotation, and to be honest it was everything I thought it would be and many things that I didn’t think it would be. It was the best of times….and the worst of times….all at once. When I started my third year of medical school, one of the first things I looked at on my schedule was where “the dreaded” OB/GYN rotation fell. It came near the very end, so I had the entire year to think about how I would approach the many ethical dilemmas that I would inevitably face as a Catholic. Finally, it came, and I quickly found myself in situations that I could not have imagined before it began.


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Right Place At the Right Time

May 10, 2011

On my way home from work, I just happened to be in the right place at the right time.

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Pope John Paul II

April 29, 2011


This weekend, as all probably know, is the beatification of Pope John Paul II.  As such, I wanted to share this piece written by a friend, Tom Crowe, over at


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Holy Week

April 18, 2011

I apologize to all for the lack of posting these past couple of weeks.  Between completing my Internal Medicine clerkship (and the related shelf exam) and preparing for Holy Week, it has been quite busy.  That being said.  I do have a few thoughts to share this week.

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Make Straight the Pathway Conference Part One

April 04, 2011

This past weekend I had the great pleasure of attending the first day of the Make Straight the Pathway Conference hosted by Christus Medicus and the Catholic Medical Association. I felt myself greatly invigorated, surrounded by health care professionals who believe in a Christ centered health care.  From my perspective, there was one main theme of the day: creating Christ centered health care. 

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Full Circle

March 06, 2011

The Lord is constantly moving in our lives, and He has made that evident to me once again.  This past Friday, I finished up my time on the inpatient general medicine service, I had an experience that I am still contemplating and praying about.  It concerns a patient that I saw, but Friday was not the first time I had encountered this individual. 

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The Lie that Abortion is Safer than Pregnancy

February 27, 2011

This recent story out of the United Kingdom was one that made my jaw drop in shock, but not in surprise.  Given the extent that the culture of death is overtaking our medical profession, is it any wonder that the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists saw fit to instruct health professionals: “Women should be advised that abortion is generally safer than continuing a pregnancy to term.”?  

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Obama Administration Rescinds Bush Era Conscience Protection

February 19, 2011

"The Obama administration on Friday rescinded most of a 2008 rule that granted sweeping protections to health care providers who opposed abortion, sterilization and other medical procedures on religious or moral grounds. Kathleen Sebelius, the secretary of health and human services, said the rule, issued in the last days of the Bush administration, could 'negatively impact patient access to contraception and certain other medical services.'"

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Former Abortionist Speaks out at Students For Life Event

February 12, 2011


Recently at CUA, Dr. John Bruchalski of the Tepeyac Family Center spoke to a group of students in regards to his conversion from being an abortionist to the founding of the nationally known Tepeyac Family Center.  Enjoy the article, and then be sure to check out the TFC website and know that a better model of health care is possible for women and families!


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Technological Breakthrough with Adult Stem Cells

February 05, 2011

Every story I hear concerning adult stem cells amazes me more and more.  This is no exception.  Here is a case where science fiction is fiction no longer.  Dr. Jorg Gerlach of the University of Pittsburgh's McGowen Institute for Regenerative Medicine has developed a device the has allowed over a dozen individuals to have their own burned skin regenerated within 4 days using their own stem cells that are literally sprayed on to the wound.  Absolutely amazing.  Watch the video below:


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A Critique of the New Study on Abortion and Mental Health

January 31, 2011

Recently a new study was published that examined the impact abortion had on a woman's mental health, and despite the numerous studies the have been done previously, this one came to the conclusion that abortion does not increase a woman's risk for needing a psychiatric evaluation within one year.  Given this conclusion, it is likely many pro-abortion groups and individuals will use this as another argument for the benign nature of abortion. As medical students and health care professionals, it is important that as this topic is brought up in conversation, we are able to speak the truth concerning the impact of abortion on a woman's mental health.  Below is an opinion piece written by a professor of Human Development and Family Studies as to why this most recent research is deeply flawed:

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Poisoned By the Pill

January 19, 2011

As Catholic medical students, it is important that we are able to explain our reluctance (and some may say abhorrence) at prescribing contraceptives.  In order to penetrate the societal fog that has engulfed our generation, we must be able to explain our position from medical and experiential perspective.  I hope that this article will help elucidate some of those points.

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ADF makes gains for freedom of Conscience in Vanderbilt Case

January 12, 2011

NASHVILLE — Vanderbilt University Wednesday modified its nurse residency application so that it no longer requires applicants to pledge that they will participate in abortion procedures. The university made the announcement in an e-mail to applicants one day after the Alliance Defense Fund filed a complaint with the Department of Health and Human Services.

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CMA Physician Publishes Book

December 14, 2010

Region I Regional Director John Howland, M.D., collaborated with Janice Steinhagen in writing a book, Heart Sounds: 12 Catholic Doctors. Based on interviews with Catholic physicians, including CMA members, the book explores how faith shapes their approach to medicine despite the pressures and temptations of a secular society. The book, which has been receiving very favorable reviews in the press, is available in the CMA Bookstore for $14.95.

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Power of the Catholic Witness Part 2

November 28, 2010

Since my previous post on The Power of the Catholic Witness, the Lord has continued to show me how important it can truly be.

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The Power of the Catholic Witness

November 13, 2010

Since beginning my third year rotations, I have been striving to be a witness of Christ to my patients and colleagues.  I have also been preparing myself for those moments when I would be asked to do something that I knew was against my faith and my conscience.  Little did I realize that I would have my first encounter of that on my surgery rotation.

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Students Attend Annual CMA Meeting

November 01, 2010

Several medical students attended the 79th Annual CMA Meeting in Seattle, receiving wonderful support from everyone in attendance.  

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Blogging to begin on Students Section of CMA Website

November 01, 2010

As the students' section of the CMA moves forward, one of the regular activities will be blog posts by students.  

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2015 Annual Educational Conference