By Sister Karen Scheer, M.D.
When I graduated from Gwynedd Mercy University (“College” while I was there) with a bachelor of science degree in biology, my first full-time work was in medical and pharmaceutical research. Working with dedicated research scientists engendered in me a love of science, particularly in the creation and development of testing platforms, medications and vaccines that would help better the lives of people. Their excitement and commitment to their work was palpable and taught me the importance of the scientific imagination, exploration, methods, double blind studies and rigorous peer review.
Fast forward several years and I found myself in medical school. The work of learning the language and practice of medicine was unlike anything I had ever undertaken in my life. As hard as it was, it was also a mystical experience. Day after day, I spent time reading and studying about the human body in all its complexity. I learned how two gametes combine to form all that makes a person fully alive and present in this world. I saw how at any step of the process, interaction with the environment or an alteration in nucleotides might change the course of a person’s life. Anatomy and physiology were a profound learning experience of the intricate and interdependent workings of the human body and how systems, including our immune system, developed over the millennia.
It is a miracle how all the moving parts arising from our DNA are orchestrated to become the divine creation embodied in humans. In my family medicine residency, I assisted women in delivering their babies and was so struck how often the process of development produced a beautiful and perfect child! I experienced firsthand what the Psalmist proclaimed in Psalm 139:14, “I am fearfully and wonderfully made.”
I am now a family medicine physician with Holy Redeemer HouseCalls in northern Philadelphia and its suburbs. When I received a call from my manager that I could receive the COVID-19 vaccination on December 26, I jumped at the chance. I also broke down and cried. The tears were a mixture of gratitude and relief to obtain protection for myself, my patients and loved ones from this deadly disease, but also a profound grief for all of those lost who did not have the opportunity to receive this life-saving medication.
Having had the privilege of ministering in both research and medicine, I am in AWE of the production of this coronavirus vaccine. I know well the around-the-clock hours of work required to make this life-saving medication available to humanity in so short a time. I am profoundly grateful to all—the bench scientists, clinical research scientists and brave persons who volunteered to be research subjects for the safety/efficacy studies. It is a modern-day MIRACLE that such a highly efficacious vaccine is available to save so many lives.
Don’t miss your shot—get vaccinated!
Read Sister Karen Scheer’s account of practicing medicine in the first few months of the COVID-19 pandemic in the July/August 2020 issue of ¡Viva! Mercy magazine here.