Every day, Doris Whitaker goes where many people don’t have the strength, or desire, or expertise, to go.
At the University of Mississippi Medical Center, she comforts the families of babies born far too soon. She hugs those being treated for painful and chronic ailments, and scans the Emergency Department for the sick and hurting waiting to see a doctor, or family members in shock because a loved one has suffered a traumatic injury.
She walks through the Medical Center’s Winfred L. Wiser Hospital for Women and Infants, checking on patients she’s already ministered to, and approaching those who may be grappling with a difficult diagnosis.
Doris Whitaker was commissioned by the Church of God in Christ in 2004. As the new director of the Medical Center’s Pastoral Services, she leads a staff of four chaplains, at least one of them on call 24/7 to tend to patients, families and UMMC staff.
Some want prayer, as you’d expect in the Bible Belt. Others just need a listening ear, a timely hug, or someone to sit silently with them.
“When we see patients, we see them as chaplains,” Whitaker said. “A pastor is generally more evangelical. We are there to comfort them, and to be present with them.
“Some may ask for prayer. The patient has to open that door, and when I pray with them, I pray from my Christian faith,” she said. “But, I’ve dealt with a Wiccan. I’ve said an atheist funeral. We have to go with the flow, and we’re not there to proselytize.”