David Drozek, D.O. (’83)
Assistant Professor of Surgery, Department of Specialty Medicine
Interview by Susie Shutts
As an undergrad, David Drozek, D.O. (’83), traveled to Chad to volunteer at a mission hospital. The experience has shaped his medical career: he worked for seven years as a medical missionary in Honduras – where he will lead OU-COM’s first international surgery rotation this November. In the meantime, in April, he will accompany a group of OU-COM students to set up clinics in Ecuador, and in June, he will oversee clinical rotations in El Salvador.
As co-advisor of the OU-COM chapter of the Christian Medical and Dental Association (CMDA), name one important topic you cover.
After training, physicians have up to $150,000 in debt, and then they get a nice salary. The tendency is to live up to their salary, and then they’re stuck in debt. They start to see patients as dollar signs. My encouragement to students is to live below their means. Make sure they have extra income and time to do mission trips, volunteer and take patients who don’t have insurance.
In one of your CMDA web site posts, you advocate “medicine as ministry – not means to ministry.” Can you explain that?
You can separate your practice from ministry and say, “Ok, this is my business. I make money here, and then I spend it on a trip to Honduras.” What I’m encouraging is for students to see their practice not as a business but as an opportunity to serve – especially here in Southeastern Ohio.
You advise volunteers who want to brings gifts for Honduran children to bring school supplies – in effort to avoid a “welfare mentality,” as you call it. Could you explain that?
Everybody looks like they’re in need from the North American perspective, but there are people with greater needs. In my experience, North American visitors tend to give indiscriminately and freely. After this goes on for a while, Hondurans just associate North Americans with Santa Claus, making it difficult to form an equal relationship.
One of the turning points for my family was when we got horses for my daughter about four years ago. We knew nothing about taking care of horses, and at first it was entertainment for our neighbors to watch us struggle. I got kicked and thrown. The horses got loose; we chased them all over the place. Then the neighbors started helping us. All of a sudden, there was this equality. They had something we needed; it changed the relationship.
What’s your advice to students who might be considering a similar path?
Just don’t throw candy at people. Require that people give something in return for assistance. It preserves their dignity and helps them value what you give.