A young Canadian general surgeon joined World Medical Mission's Post-Residency Program, serving the people of Nepal for two years.
When Dr. Jessica Westerholm makes her rounds, she often clasps her open palms together with a smile and says “namaste,” a common greeting of respect, before tending to her patients.
Her quiet voice and gentle touch calmed the fears of 8-year-old Vikam as she examined his broken leg. “I was playing soccer,” he said. “I fell.” Jessica comforted Vikam, checked his leg, got him to smile, and moved on to the next patient.
Jessica came to Tansen Hospital to serve for two years as a general surgeon through the Post-Residency Program. The Samaritan’s Purse program enables young Christian physicians who feel called to medical missions to practice overseas and lay a foundation for a lifetime of service.
The journey of faith that brought Jessica to Nepal began with a childhood dream.
“In eighth grade, one of my assignments was to write about a dream I had for the future, and at that point I already had a sense that I wanted to go into medical missions,” Jessica said. “I wrote about being able to care for people’s physical needs as a nurse and also being able to share the love of Jesus with the people who came for medical care. So, those were kind of the beginning seeds of the vision that God had given me.”
It was hard for Jessica to leave her family and friends to practice medicine halfway around the world, but she has found a new home in Nepal.
“I really love being in a cross-cultural context,” Jessica said. “I enjoy learning languages. I enjoy the challenge and the opportunity to practice very general medicine and general surgery, and having to be creative and think on my feet.”
The setting is remote, and resources are often limited, but Jessica is happy to have seasoned medical missionaries on staff who understand the challenges of practicing medicine overseas.
“I’m blessed at Tansen Hospital to have other, more senior surgical colleagues here,” she said. “And that is part of the vision of the Post-Residency Program, to place post residents in a place where there are more senior colleagues in their specialty, and if possible, to provide some mentorship.”
Jessica is also pleased to share in the spiritual mission and vision of the hospital. A pastoral team made up of Nepali believers comforts patients and provides spiritual care. Patients are welcome to attend services and hear the Gospel in the hospital chapel.
“I see people who are made in the image of God,” Jessica said. “I see people who are hurting and broken, and who are not just needy in their bodies, but also needy in their spirits. And I see people that I have an opportunity to be Jesus to.”