September 12, 2014

Caring for the whole person: Young doctor focuses on patients’ dignity as she leads Catholic health care group

Dr. Casey Reising, right, shares a moment of joy with Kim Haley, an office assistant who works in Magnificat Family Medicine, the new Indianapolis medical practice that Reising named to honor the Blessed Mother. (Photo by John Shaughnessy)

Dr. Casey Reising, right, shares a moment of joy with Kim Haley, an office assistant who works in Magnificat Family Medicine, the new Indianapolis medical practice that Reising named to honor the Blessed Mother. (Photo by John Shaughnessy)

By John Shaughnessy

Her time with the dying patient continues to remind Dr. Casey Reising of the most important approach she strives to have as she starts her career as a family physician.

“This man was middle-aged, he had a huge tumor on his head and neck, and it was thought he would die within weeks,” Reising says, recalling the home hospice visit she made as a medical student.

“I was struck by how joyful he was. I remember looking into his eyes, and I could see Christ in him and feel Christ there with us. We were there to take care of him, and he was taking care of us. It was a good reminder to me to maintain my relationship with Christ so I can be his hands and his feet, to take care of all those I encounter—to really love every person I come in contact with.”

Beyond her personal practice, Reising is working to promote the connection between Catholic faith and health care as the president of the St. Raphael Catholic Medical Guild of Indianapolis. The goal of the group is to provide support and education for Catholic health care professionals who try to uphold Catholic values in medicine.

As part of the group’s efforts, a White Mass for health care workers will be celebrated at 6 p.m. on Sept. 29 at Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary Church in Indianapolis.

“I think the group can offer a place where we can meet, make friends and learn more about our faith and the Church’s beautiful teachings about modern medicine,” says Reising, a member of St. John the Evangelist Parish in Indianapolis. “In the future, we’d like to branch out and be more involved in service opportunities in the community, including ethics seminars and health fairs.”

In helping to re-establish the group this year, Reising has called upon the guidance and direction of Dr. James Scheidler, an Indianapolis physician who has long been active in the national Catholic Medical Association.

Reising first contacted Scheidler three years ago when she moved to Indianapolis to start a residency in family medicine at St. Vincent Health. She had benefitted from being involved in the New Orleans chapter of the Catholic Medical Association when she was a medical student at Tulane University. She was hoping for a similar connection in Indianapolis.

“He was happy to pass the torch to me after my residency,” says Reising, who finished her residency in June. “We both shared our experiences in med school and being called by the Holy Spirit to stand up for Catholic teachings in medicine.”

At 75, Scheidler still works in his practice four days a week. But he wanted a young leader for the Indianapolis medical group.

“I told Casey we needed youth,” Scheidler says. “She’s very competent, a charming young woman and a conscientious physician who will take care of her patients.

“And she believes in the Catholic Medical Association. It’s an organization that firmly adheres to Church teaching. When I was in med school, I felt like a lone wolf. The Catholic Medical Association bridges that gap. It shows you how to practice medicine with Church teaching. It gives you peers to support you in having ethics in your practice.”

Reising and Scheidler agreed that the primary goal of the group initially would be to support medical students.

“They are in the trenches fighting for the pro-life cause—upholding the dignity of all human life from conception to natural death,” Reising says. “And that’s not very supported in med schools.”

The 45 members of the Indianapolis group include medical students from Indiana University School of Medicine and Marian University’s School of Osteopathic Medicine, both in Indianapolis.

Doctors, nurses, nurse practitioners, priests and ethicists are also members of the group, which is open to all health care professionals and anyone else who is interested. The chaplain for the group is Father Ryan McCarthy, pastor of Holy Rosary Parish.

The group meets the second Sunday of every month at 6 p.m. at St. Luke the Evangelist Parish in Indianapolis.

“We pray, we have fellowship and we discuss ethical issues that physicians, other health professionals and patients face in modern medicine,” Reising says. “We want to provide support intellectually, emotionally and spiritually for each other.”

After finishing her residency at St. Vincent, Reising decided to start her own practice. Searching for just the right name, she finally chose Magnificat Family Medicine.

“I chose that name because I have always had a strong devotion to Mary,” says Reising, a 2006 graduate of the University of Notre Dame. “I started praying with the ‘Magnificat’ during devotion at Notre Dame. Three different people—a friend, a priest and a patient—also suggested the ‘Magnificat’ as the name for my practice.”

Prayer was also a key part of her decision about whether she should “stay in Indianapolis or go elsewhere.”

“I started praying and felt called to stay in Indiana.”

The motto of her practice is, “Holistic care upholding the dignity of men, women and children.”

“It’s really important to take care of the whole person—body, mind and spirit,” she says. “I try to treat each patient as a child of God. One of my mentors always said, ‘Casey, you can’t forget the dignity of the person and the dignity of the family.’

“With Jesus as the divine healer, we just try to bring healing to people. Sometimes, we can. Sometimes, we can’t. But we always try to walk with them.”
 

(For more information about the St. Raphael Catholic Medical Guild of Indianapolis, contact Reising at casey.l.reising@gmail.com.)

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