Dr. Rosa Perez-Williams, a family physician in Mexico since the 1970s, never could have predicted that she would end up as a chaplain for Sharp Coronado Hospital, a profession that comes naturally to her, she happily discovered.
"I love practicing medicine," Dr. Perez-Williams said. "It’s my passion; something I always wanted to do, ever since a doctor made a house call during my mother’s recovery from a heart attack. Perfectly attired under his lab coat, he wore a stethoscope and carried a black bag in his right hand. He radiated authority and skill. I was hooked."
In the late-'90s, Dr. Perez-Williams took a sabbatical to Orange County with her husband to be closer to family. Her husband passed away soon after, and she hoped to eventually resume her medical practice in Mexico, where she is licensed.
In the meantime, her friend urged her to apply for a job as an interpreter at a hospital. Half-heartedly, Dr. Perez-Williams applied and got the job. The hospital chaplains immediately connected with her, telling her she was compassionate and “well-suited to spiritual care.”
She took their advice and pursued a career as a chaplain. Now, several years into it, she has learned how similar the profession is to practicing medicine, in that she helps to heal the whole person.
"A chaplain can take the stress away, which can have an amazing, dramatic effect on someone’s physical well-being," she said. "Instead of providing the answer for patients, I help them find the solutions themselves. I diagnose grief and sadness, and in place of a prescription, I provide support, which is just a different kind of medicine."
"I have to rely on my clinical skills and get creative," she said. "That’s what I enjoy, both as a physician and a chaplain."