By Anne Marie Amacher
The Catholic Messenger
What started out as a trip to Minnesota to visit grandchildren and earn continuing education credits led to formation of St. Thomas Aquinas Guild of the Quad Cities for Catholic medical professionals.
Guild president Dr. Timothy Millea of St. Paul the Apostle Parish in Davenport said a Catholic Medical Association (CMA) Guild existed around the 1960s, so this is the “2.0” version (a reference to the technological age).
“I blame the grandchildren for the start of this,” he laughed. In the fall of 2012, Millea attended the annual national meeting of CMA. “I intended to go a day or a day and a half out of the three days, then visit with my grandchildren,” he said.
“I ended up spending the whole three days there with 600 strangers. I told my wife I was going again the next year.” The conference wasn’t just about the latest in medicine, but addressed the Health and Human Services contraceptive mandate and witness testimonies of hope from Catholics.
In 2013 Millea attended the CMA convention in Santa Barbara, Calif., where he was introduced to Dr. Clem Cunningham, a retired physician from Rock Island, Ill.; Dr. Michael Porubcin, a physician in Moline, Ill.; and Father Jerry Logan, a priest of the Diocese of Peoria, Ill.
Porubcin said in his quest of science, his spiritual growth took a second seat. He found a way to connect the two during the convention in Santa Barbara.
In September 2013 Millea, Porubcin and Cunningham began working on the idea of a Quad-Cities guild.
They sent a letter to members of health field professions, clergy, religious and other interested individuals and established the guild Jan. 28, 2014, the feast day of the patron saint — St. Thomas Aquinas.
The letter stated, “As you are well aware, working in health care today can be increasingly challenging. Unfortunately many of the pressures that impact us are not entirely clinical in nature. There are, and will continue to be, issues that challenge our ethical and moral foundations as Catholic health-care workers. These can be very disheartening times to be a Catholic care provider and the need for support from colleagues with shared values have never been more crucial.”
The guild plans monthly meetings, typically on the third Saturday of the month. The location and speaker rotate between Quad-City area parishes. Millea said speakers talk on any variety of medical topics, pro-life issues, end-of-life discussion, indigent care, international mission work, the history and philosophy of medicine and more.
Dr. Karla Polaschek is an ob/gyn and Natural Family Planning (NFP) physician in Moline, Ill., and a member of St. Alphonsus Parish in Davenport. She gave a presentation on NFP and perinatal hospice. Dr. Mark Blaser, an allergist in Moline, Ill., and member of St. John Vianney Parish in Bettendorf, gave a talk on Catholic medical mission trips he has made in Belize and Haiti. Chris McCormick Pries, ARNP, is with Vera French Community Mental Health Center in Davenport and is a member of St. John Vianney Parish. Her presentation was on a Catholic president’s impact on national mental health policy: has Catholic doctrine/Scripture influenced our mental health delivery system? The Aug. 16 meeting was Ashamed of the Gospel? a video presentation by professor Robert George. It was led by Father Jerry Logan, pastor of St. Mary and Sacred Heart parishes in Rock Island, Ill. On Sept. 20 the topic will be bioethics in Catholic health care, led by Msgr. Mark Merdian, pastor of St. Pius X Parish in Rock Island. Location to be announced. All meetings are at 10 a.m.
Millea said the talks include time for discussion and sharing ideas about how a topic might be handled to be in line with the Catholic Church.
“Our community has many great individuals. They are in our parishes, universities and our hospitals. From the perspective of a medical professional, I would like to bring inspiration and encouragement to those who are open and ready to learn and grow with the help and resources of CMA,” Porubcin, the guild’s vice president, said.
Millea appreciates the support of Bishop Martin Amos in the establishment of the guild. He was pleasantly surprised that the bishop attended the first meeting — and stayed the entire time.
Because medical professionals are busy, Millea understands that they cannot attend all meetings. But just because they are on call doesn’t mean they can’t attend. During the June meeting several physicians stepped out to answer calls. “I am impressed at those who have come so far.”
Porubcin and Millea invite health professionals to attend their meetings. For more information on the next meeting, to speak or to become a member, contact guild members at firstname.lastname@example.org.