The Transformative Power of Clinical Mission Work

Just a few years after completing his residency in emergency medicine, CareCulture Health Partners CEO Dr. Eugene Gicheru felt the burnout so many physicians face seeping into his life. The monotonous cycle was ingrained: wake up, work, do it all again. The gap between his daily grind and a feeling of fulfillment and purpose widened. Even though he had accomplished his personal goal of becoming a physician, he felt there had to be more. He resolved to break the cycle. He always knew that it was possible to cultivate fulfilling harmony between work and life. But how?

Dr. Gicheru knew that emergency medicine would be challenging and that burnout was common. But he was determined to find an outlet that would reinvigorate him, anchor him, and give him a deeper sense of purpose. He found his answer when he began participating in non-profit clinical mission work with colleagues.

In 2010, Dr. Gicheru went on his first medical mission trip to Armenia with his friend and colleague, Dr. Lawrence Bean. That trip, and the many that followed, sparked a lasting passion for service through mission work. Dr. Gicheru traveled about twice a year to serve, and for him, each trip was a rededication for his commitment to serving others. It filled the void. It blended a sense of purpose he could apply interchangeably to work and to life. And, it turned out, the renewed fervor and purpose it gave him was contagious. Today, Dr. Gicheru is able to travel with his wife Laura and 2 sons so they can experience this sense of purpose as a family.

After joining other organization’s trips for years, Dr. Gicheru co-founded his own non-profit, Great Commission Outreach (GCO). GCO’s mission is to provide high quality health care to communities in need locally and across the world. GCO evolved from encouraging the spirit of service by going on short term mission trips to a complex organization that supports communities both in the United States and all over the world. GCO’s domestic arm, Clinic for the Cities, is dedicated to partnering with churches to provide free local community clinics in the United States.

Dr. Gicheru believes all humans eventually search for meaning and  purpose in their lives and for him that purpose was found through service. He enjoys seeing the clinical team members who join him on trips return to their clinical teams with the same renewed enthusiasm for the practice of medicine he experiences. The feeling is often contagious, extending to co-workers and patients and drastically improving the overall team dynamic.

To learn more about the transformative power of clinical mission work, we spoke with a colleague Dr. Gicheru inspired, Jessica Hughes Kisicki, MD, FACEP, about the way clinical mission work has transformed her approach to her life and career. 

What do you find most rewarding about service?

Dr. Hughes Kisicki: Since I was a child, I have always been inclined to help people in need. I know my purpose is to serve people in need and my goal is to do that in all facets of my life. If I see an opportunity to serve someone in need, I seize it. I find it rewarding to share my knowledge, strength, and love with communities in need. It’s an incredible feeling to watch these same communities grow to be self-sustaining and thriving.

Why do you recommend that clinicians participate in non-profit clinical work?

Dr. Hughes Kisicki: I would recommend missions because serving others not only benefits the person you are serving, but also benefits the person serving. It is incredibly fulfilling to give your time, energy, and love to others. You receive far more than you give. If the world is full of servants, our world will be a better place.  

How has service impacted your life at home?

Dr. Hughes Kisicki: Mission work has changed my life. I’ve always valued selflessness and mission work has enhanced my intention to live that value every day. This work has helped me see that every person has struggles and there is always an opportunity to help others. As a mom and emergency department medical director, I strive to be a servant leader in every aspect of my life. I am raising my children to be servants who are selfless and loving.

I have also found that by treating people selflessly, others have become inspired to do the same. In fact, the Guatemala trip in June 2018 will be full of people from my hospital who have become inspired to serve by seeing how we treat people and by hearing our stories. I have learned that serving is what truly matters in life, not material things. 

How has service made you stronger clinical leader?

Dr. Hughes Kisicki: Service has made me a much stronger leader. I have learned to slow down and really listen to people. I have learned that it is important to inspire others to serve and grow. Every single person has a need that you can fulfill at some point, and it is very important to lift other people up. Status and material things are not important, people are. Love and strength can build people up and change their life.