Dr. Dan Galat: The Secretly Incredible Orthopedic Surgeon
JS: You work as an orthopedic surgeon in a developing country. How did you get to this place in life?
Dan: It’s quite a long story. I wanted to be a doctor since I was a kid. But then God changed some things in my life. I grew up in a Christian home but it wasn’t until after my freshman year of college that I surrendered my life to Christ.
I became heavily involved with Campus Crusade for Christ, and God used a combination of solid Christian friends and a discipleship relationship with a man named Roger Hershey to grow a deep understanding of grace in my life.
My friends and I would have all night “worship and prayer sessions” in our dorm room, and it was during one those sessions that I committed my life to serving Christ, no matter the cost.
I met my future wife one summer on a mission trip to Brazil. I loved the trip. I loved serving people in another country. I fell in love with her. I was hooked. From that point on I wanted to become a missionary.
With a different set of plans, I chose to attend seminary, but really struggled to thrive in that environment. It just didn’t fit me. One day while talking to my advisor I confessed my struggles.
I told him about my previous desire to be a physician. He then suggested I combine the two. Medical missionary? It had never occurred to me, but the answer seemed so obvious.
I finished seminary and then applied for medical school. From day one, my goal became the medical mission field.
JS: Although I am personally quite partial, why did you choose orthopedic surgery?
Dan: That is another crazy story. I had decided to become an emergency medicine doctor. You make that decision at the beginning of your last year in medical school. I felt good about it up until the last minute.
I had really enjoyed my surgery rotations, and I decided I was choosing ER for the wrong reasons. It seemed practical, but not what I really wanted to do. During my last year, I did an orthopedic surgery rotation that I really loved. It was way too late to change my mind that year. My only option was to drop out of the residency placement program and wait another year.
JS: Having gone through that process myself, that must have been a frightening decision.
Dan: I wouldn’t recommend it. It meant that after 4 years of medical school, I was choosing to not enter residency right away in the hopes that I would get to do what I wanted. It’s much easier to make the decision earlier in the process.
I had another advisor in medical school that helped me at that point. He told me that if I would just spend a year doing research, he would help me get a residency position the following year.
I followed his advice and did the year of research. During that time I spent a week at the Mayo Clinic just to get to know some people. They decided to offer me a position.. Not only did I get to do Orthopedic surgery, but I also trained at Mayo.
Going from quitting to a position at Mayo was quite a ride.
JS: What do you like most about being a medical missionary?
Dan: There are many things that I like about being a medical missionary. The opportunity to work in an area with real medical needs, openly sharing Christ and praying with patients, the excitement of traveling and raising my family abroad, meeting unique people from all over the world, training and discipling African physicians.
But for me, what I like the most is the daily dependence that I have on Christ (a dependence that I just did not feel so strongly while living in the U.S.), because here, I must rely daily on the grace and strength that God provides to do the work (mental, emotional, physical and spiritual).
JS: I understand what you are saying. Here in the U.S. we have so many resources, it is easy to “make” things happen instead of relying on God.
Dan: Exactly. My resources are limited here, but the injuries and medical problems are just as bad. I honestly don’t know if I will have everything I need to be able to take care of people. The same happens with my family. We are comfortable, but life just doesn’t seem as certain. The truth is that none of life is certain, we just fall into the habit of believing it is back home.
JS: What is the hardest part of being a medical missionary?
Dan: There is a lot of spiritual warfare in this job, and Satan tries whatever he can to stop the work. Our family has been attacked a lot lately, but God is stronger, and the prayers of many people are very powerful and effective. Also, not everyone in the medical community shares the same vision and passion for medical missions and it is discouraging sometimes when trying to motivate colleagues to get involved. However, God always provides what we need at the right time.
JS: When most people go to medical school to get a comfortable job that pays well, you chose something different? Why did you do this? What would you tell other people considering a less than normal life?
Dan: When I was in college, a close friend challenged me to have an “eternal perspective” rather than just living for this world. And that stuck with me. You only have one life to live, and the life lived for Christ is the most satisfying and fulfilling life available.
Although I may be giving up a degree of “treasure” in this lifetime, Jesus says our focus should be building treasure in Heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy and thieves cannot break in and steal…this is the treasure that is eternal.
Because God is so committed to glorifying his Name, when our aim is the same, we see Him do miracles in and through us to bless other people. To me, there is nothing more satisfying!
Know someone who is secretly incredible like Dan? Submit their name to the Secretly Incredible You contest.
You can leave a comment by clicking here.