Home Diocesan News Dr. Paul Wright: Live simply and fully
Dr. Paul Wright: Live simply and fully Print E-mail
Written by Mary Ellen Pellegrini, Special to the Exponent   
Friday, 09 February 2018 15:14

VIENNA – “Sometimes life experiences take you down a road that makes all the difference,” says Paul A. Wright, M.D., a retired Youngstown cardiologist.

 

For Dr. Wright, that experience was a 2 a.m. call during the cardiology rotation of his medical residency. After inserting a pacemaker into an elderly man in distress, the fledgling physician said, “I watched that pacemaker work and thought, “This is what I want to do.’”

Dr. Wright, a member of St. Thomas the Apostle Parish here, earned his undergraduate degree in pre-med at the University of Notre Dame. “I felt very strongly called to serve humanity as a physician,” he noted.

When asked what he found most gratifying in his 35 years of practicing medicine, Dr. Wright said, “alleviating the suffering of others, whether it was physical, mental, or psychological.”

Today, technological advancements greatly assist the achievement of this goal, Dr. Wright noted. Still, he realized one day that too much technology, combined with constraints imposed on medical providers, can diminish the important human factor in the practice of medicine.

“In medicine you need the knowledge to cure and the compassion to care. Without time to develop a loving spiritual relationship between physician and patient, both partners lose,” he stressed.

Although Dr. Wright achieved professional and financial success as a partner of the Ohio Heart Institute, a regional center for treating acute cardiac conditions, he felt an emptiness and a fear that he wasn’t using his talents as God wanted. A long-desired encounter with Mother Teresa of Calcutta, whom he’d always admired for her compassion and self-giving love, proved transformative.

In 1992, Dr. Wright arranged to meet Mother Teresa (now St. Teresa of Calcutta) at a homeless shelter in Tijuana, Mexico, where she was recovering from a heart attack. Sitting at a little wooden table in a tiny room, 110 degrees outside and with no air conditioning, Dr. Wright said, “the moment I saw Mother Teresa, who could barely walk, I realized how much she suffered [in order] to see me. It was such a humbling experience.”

After relating his two reasons for wanting to meet her – to ask her what would give meaning to his life and the criteria by which he would be judged upon death – Mother Teresa referred him to Matthew 25:35-46 (“Whatever you did for the least of my brethren, you did for me”). “She said Jesus Christ comes every day dressed in the disguise of the poor and asks us to love Him,” related Dr. Wright.

That answer offered the physician a new-found sense of purpose. Following that directive, Dr. Wright discovered, “When I open myself up and do something good for humanity, [those] are the times I feel fully alive.”

Highlighting Mother Teresa’s admonition to “do small things with great love,” Dr. Wright noted that accepting that challenge can entail caring for the elderly, passing on the love of a grandparent to a grandchild, or reaching out to a neighbor in distress.

In 1995, Dr. Wright founded the Poorest of the Poor Campaign which distributed clothing, household, and medical supplies to Appalachia, Indian reservations in Arizona, as well as to the Dominican Republic, India, Haiti, Bangladesh and Mexico. “The most painful experience in the world I’ve ever seen is a parent holding a child in their arms and not being able to afford food or antibiotics for that child,” Dr. Wright said.

As one of thousands of Mother Teresa’s co-workers and one of several cardiologists for her, Dr. Wright said Mother Teresa taught him that sustainable inner peace and happiness come from growing in compassion, patience, tolerance, and forgiveness. His book, “Mother Teresa’s Prescription: Finding Happiness and Peace in Service,” published in 2006, offers the many lessons he gleaned from the saint. “Her number one criteria was always ‘If it’s not for Jesus, it’s not worth doing,’” the doctor remarked.

One of the messages Dr. Wright hopes readers take away from his book is Mother Teresa’s definition of success – utilizing one’s God-given talents to serve humanity compassionately; not achieving power, prestige or money.

In 2003, Dr. Wright attended the beatification ceremony for Mother Teresa and in 2016, her canonization. “To be in St. Peter’s Square with four or five hundred thousand people and look around and say ‘yes, goodness won this time’ was a beautiful experience,” he related.

Currently Dr. Wright serves as a guest lecturer for a student medical ethics symposium at Notre Dame.

To maintain heart health, the cardiologist stressed the importance of knowing one’s family health history. “People underestimate the genetic component which predisposes us to almost everything,” he noted. Obesity, often resulting from sugar- and fat-laden diets, also contributes to heart disease. “In general, most people know when they’re eating the wrong foods. It’s a matter of self-discipline,” he said.

Dr. Wright recommends a diet of fruits, vegetables, fish, and chicken.


Finding Dr. Wright’s book

“Mother Teresa’s Prescription,” available from Ave Maria Publishing Co., has been translated into 20 languages and is used as a teaching tool in 125 homes worldwide operated by the Missionaries of Charity, the order founded by St. Teresa. All royalties from the book go directly from the publisher to the Missionaries of Charity.

 
 

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