Reaching the Medical City of Philadelphia

by Karen Fritz November 13, 2015

Anne was a high-achieving Christian medical student with a passion to serve others. However, she was unprepared for the intensity, isolation, and cynicism she encountered in her first year of medical school, which was profound and consuming. She found her faith tested on several different levels, and after experiencing a painful break-up she became angry at God on many occasions. “I became disillusioned after being stuck in the library for hours on end. I wondered what it really meant to be a Christian doctor, and struggled daily with thoughts of quitting,” she said. 

The heart of Medical Campus Outreach (MCO) is discipleship. MCO is a ministry of Tenth Presbyterian Church, which seeks to provide discipleship to students and residents like Anne, whose experience is not uncommon. Those in health care are uniquely poised to reach people and provide succor to those in need, especially those who are in need of the greatest Healer of all. However, the challenging years of study and hospital work leave many feeling adrift and spiritually dry. They are often in need of Christian fellowship, mentoring, and biblical teaching—the spiritual food of true discipleship.

Discipleship was foundational to Jesus’ ministry. His ministry was entrusted to his disciples and examples are found throughout the New Testament, including Paul’s exhortation to Timothy “…what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to reach others also” (2 Timothy 2:2).
MCO provides discipleship through many aspects of its ministry:

  • Mentoring/Staff Team: MCO has over 40 health care students paired with Christian medical professionals (several who are also MCO staff team members), allowing Christian students to receive valuable and Christ-centered perspective on their lives and careers during one-on-one discipleship.
  • Students Residential Houses: MCO and its supporters have created a men’s and women’s residential house for health care students to live in Christian community.
  • The Global Missions Health Conference: Each November MCO arranges donated housing and provides transportation costs for 15–20 health care students to attend the conference in Louisville, Kentucky. Held last weekend, the group learned about stirring opportunities to work in medical missions.
  • Healthcare Luncheons and City-wide Events: These luncheons at Tenth and city-wides at local campuses create an opportunity for health care students and professionals to hear from speakers on medically relevant topics and connect with others. 
  • The MCO Library and Speakers’ Bureau: Housed in Tenth’s library and brought to each health care luncheon, MCO lends books, CD’s, and DVD’s on missions, Bible study, and health care issues and ethics. The speakers’ bureau makes Christian specialists and professionals available to speak to student groups.
  • The Summer Medical Institute: Each year MCO runs its annual urban medical and discipleship project in partnership with Esperanza Health Center. Approximately 25 Christian health care students provide door-to-door health screens and share the gospel in North Philadelphia, while being discipled by Christian mentors and receiving biblical teaching. MCO also teaches students how to share their faith in a healthcare setting through the year-round medical and evangelistic outreaches they host. 

Through her valuable experience in SMI and mentoring afterwards by MCO staff, Anne’s faith in Christ was strengthened, and she gained new vision for her career in health care. “Through SMI and the opportunity to develop relationships with Christian physicians, MCO reminded me of why I wanted to be a doctor in the first place, and that God should be at the center of it all,” she said.

MCO continues to build and grow its ministry, and is grateful for the support of Tenth Presbyterian Church! For more information about how to support MCO and opportunities to be involved, please visit its website or contact their office


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