DARIEN—“Never walk in a patient’s room and leave half of yourself at the door. They need the other half,” said Orthopedic Surgeon and author Dr. Joseph Dutkowsky, at the 25th Annual White Mass Breakfast at Woodway Country Club.
Dr. Dutkowsky, who has dedicated much of his practice to caring for patients with cerebral palsy and other special needs, said every healthcare practitioner has the obligation to know the latest in science and medicine, but also to recognize the role of faith and spirit in healing.
Dr. Dutkowsky is an Attending Orthopaedic Surgeon at Bassett Medical Center in upstate New York and an Associate Clinical Professor of Orthopaedic Surgery at Columbia University College of Physicians. He is president of the American Academy for Cerebral Palsy and Developmental Medicine.
In one of the most profound and prayerful White Mass talks, Dr. Dutkowsky said that the sacredness of human life and “the shared life force” have the power to connect faith and science and create a new sense of reverence for life.
Reflecting on the “contemporary chasm between faith and science,” Dr. Dutkowsky said, “The metaphysical dimension of health care is as present at the physical.”
The noted medical scientist said that faith and science are different and reasonable “ways of knowing” and that both pathways can connect to bring a new understanding of the human condition.
Dr. Dutkowsky told the breakfast gathering of more than 200 men and women that for him the greatest “cohesion of faith and science is found in the Eucharist,” where the body and blood of Christ enter the body bringing God’s love and mercy–his living presence– to us.
He said 1999 was a difficult year for him and also provided a transformational moment in his life and practice.
He found himself “discouraged, almost despondent” about the business of healthcare with its red tape, insurances, and balance sheets, when an encounter with an elderly patient brought his faith and medical practice together.
He was working the emergency rotation when he was told that an 85-year old woman from a rural town about 45 minutes away needed surgery for a broken wrist.
It took she and her husband, who suffered from memory loss and confusion, almost three hours to get to the hospital, and when Dr. Dutkowsky first met her, she was disconsolate—not for herself but over her husband.
“I’m afraid I’ve lost Gordon,” she told him, noting that he probably was lost in the parking lot. Dr. Dutkowsky asked Security to look for him, and in a short time the couple, who were married 63 years, were reunited around her hospital bed.
As Dr. Dutkowsky was about to begin the procedure the patient said to her husband, “Gordon, come here and hold me tight.” That simple human gesture and their love for each other that “transcended age and forgetfulness” powerfully affected Dr. Dutkowsky.
“My soul melted at that moment and something wonderfully profound changed in me,” he recalled. ‘For two decades I had worked tirelessly to develop skills to treat her,” but sensing her full humanity and spirit brought him to “experience faith in the present God.”
“Faith and science collided” and formed something new in his psyche and in his practice, Dr. Dutkowsky said “They combined to form some new element to witness the glory of God. I will never get over that experience.”
Speaking directly to the healthcare professionals in the audience, Dr. Dutkowsky said, “You bring the image and likeness of a loving God to patients through faith and science.”
During the breakfast Bishop Caggiano presented the 2018 Father Rufin Compassionate Care Awards to Dr. Patrick Cahill and healthcare volunteer Nathaniel Beckles.
Dr. Cahill, a Stamford obstetrician and gynecologist, was honored for his mission service to serve Honduran woman and for his outreach to low-income families in the Stamford area. He was nominated by Fr. Kevin Royal, pastor of Holy Spirit Parish in Stamford, where he is a parishioner and member of the parish council.
Nathaniel Beckles was recognized for his service as a volunteer at St. Camillus Health Center in Stamford. A Brooklyn native, he began volunteering when his uncle was a patient. He often leads the Rosary for patients in the chapel. Mr. Beckles was nominated by Fr. Matt Mauriello, a member of the Pastoral Care Team at St. Camillus, nominated, who praised his for his quiet and strong service in the spirit of St. Joseph.
The bishop also presented an honorary award to Dr. Thomas Flynn of New Canaan who approached Bishop Edward Egan twenty-five years ago with the idea of bringing his colleagues together for a White Mass to celebrate their faith and role as healers in the community.
“Dr. Flynn is a pre-eminent physician and a man of great faith who has healed by is skills, his presence, and his accompaniment of those who are sick and suffering,” the bishop said.
The day began when more than 300 gathered for Mass for at St. Aloysius Church in New Canaan for the White Mass con-celebrated by Bishop Caggiano and priests including those who serve in healthcare care settings throughout the diocese.
During his homily on the 5th Sunday in Lent, Bishop Caggiano said that “every human heart is restless until it finds God,” but his presence is “often obscured at different times in our lives, or perhaps we are blind to his presence that is all around us.”
He said that many people feel abandoned by God when a loved one “is sick or suffering, and we feel helpless.”
The bishop said that in the face of suffering, we must learn the “mystery of surrender of ourselves to the present moment, to things we can change and things we cannot. We must do what we can to heal and then accept. In both cases God is present to us.”
“God is in the here and now, and we are surprised to find him in the cracks of our lives. What appears to be suffering becomes the avenue of everlasting life, and our victory over death.”
He thanked all healthcare workers for their sense of ministry as they “face the mystery of suffering everyday” and become “vehicles of God’s presence” in their work to bring physical and spiritual healing.
Pictured above — Bishop Frank J. Caggiano, keynote speaker Dr. Joseph Dutkowsky, and Dr. Thomas Flynn at the White Mass breakfast held at Woodway Country Club.