Bruce Wooley remembers a time when a Church-going LDS physician was almost an oxymoron.
"When I was growing up, you almost never saw a physician who was active in the Church," said Brother Wooley, a pharmacy professor at Brigham Young University. Scant time was the day-to-day enemy for many LDS doctors struggling to fulfill Church duties while attending to the never-ending needs of patients and other professional tasks.
There remain but 24 hours in a day. Seven days in a week. Still, more and more LDS physicians and other medical professionals are finding ways to serve in the ward and at the hospital ward or clinic. Many have combined medical training with spiritual convictions to help others via Collegium Aesculapium an international, non-profit organization for LDS health professionals.
The private organization has developed into a community of support of sorts for hundreds of LDS health professionals facing special challenges meeting the needs of their faith and profession.
But Collegium Aesculapium is much more than a social fraternity of LDS doctors. Service, said Brother Wooley, is at the heart of the organization. "We believe we can do a lot more good by teaching people," he said.
Indeed, much of the organization's efforts focus on passing along medical education to others in developing areas of the world. Collegium Aesculapium has "taken under its wing" the Cunori Medical School in the Guatemalan city of Chiquimula. Brother Wooley said many medical students in Guatemala earn their medical degrees in Guatemala City, then stay in the capital city to establish their practice. The result is a shortage of doctors and medical professionals in other areas of the country. By helping support Cunori via donations and professional instruction, members of Collegium Aesculapium have helped sustain a medical school outside of Guatemala City. It's hoped that graduates can now stay in their hometowns and provide care to their neighbors.
Working in conjunction with BYU's Ezra Taft Benson Institute, Collegium Aesculapium has also shipped almost $1 million in medical equipment to Cunori and provided scholarships to several medical students. On a side note, Dr. Benjamin Perez the dean of the Cunori medical school and his wife and fellow physician, Dr. Arlete Raymos de Perez, are both converts to the Church.
Beyond Cunori, Collegium Aesculapium serves the global community by providing basic medical kits to LDS health specialist missionaries and works with LDS Charities to donate equipment and other materials in areas of need throughout the world. The organization also enlists the Church's Perpetual Education Fund to help LDS students obtain degrees in medicine, nursing and pharmacy.
Collegium Aesculapium also provides LDS health professionals with a forum to come together. Twice a year, the organization holds a conference to discuss ongoing issues in medicine and their impact on LDS doctors and pharmacists.
Despite functioning for more than a quarter of a century, Collegium Aesculapium remains unknown to many LDS health professionals, said Brother Wooley. Those who are interested may learn more by contacting the organization's web site at collegiumaesculapium.org.
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