Written by Stephen Wilson
From his column To Your Health
Editor’s Note: After almost seven years of dedicated service to our readers, Dr. Steven Burns has passed the mantle to another talented physician—Dr. Stephen Wilson, MD. An administrator and physician, Dr. Wilson has so much experience and credits we don’t have space to list them here, but he shares some of his story in this first article. Dr. Wilson is a Fellow of the American Academy of Family Physicians and a Master of Public Health with a heart for God and serving others. We believe you will be blessed by his knowledge, insight, compassion, and faith. We welcome him to the P&B writing team.
Happy 2023 to you, active and retired Nazarene ministers and spouses! Hope the transition from 2022 to 2023 is going well and your year is off to a great start. It is my unexpected pleasure to become the physician-writer for this column. My goals are to educate, inform, stimulate thinking, raise questions, and meet your needs. If there are topics about which you have questions or would like to learn more, please send your ideas to the editor who will convey them to me.
With this transition in year and column writer, allow me to introduce myself.
Foremost, my life is an unfolding of God’s lovingkindness, seen and unseen hand, enduring faithfulness, and saving grace. My input is to work my best to apply the time, talent, and treasure he has given and is giving me to grow in: 1) loving God with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength; and 2) loving my neighbor as myself.
My life arc to-date bends from Jamaica to Kentucky to New York City to Quincy, Mass., to Pittsburgh to Boston.
Looking through the window of that airplane in Montego Bay, Jamaica, I could see people—grandparents, aunt, uncles, cousins, and family friends—waving. With all the hugs, farewells, and best wishes, there also had been many tears. Mom was seated next to me; her cheeks were wet. Dad and Mom had sensed a clear calling: he was leaving his life as a physician to become a pastor. This was the beginning of that transition. We were bound for Lexington, Kentucky, where he would attend Asbury Theological Seminary. I was four years old with two younger siblings.
While in Lexington, we moved from the Wesleyan Church to Church of the Nazarene. First Church of the Nazarene became our home congregation. We were part of integrating a church and a district. Rev. McCracken and my dad responded to divine direction, and First Church became the mother church of what eventually became Gethsemane Church of the Nazarene. At that age, I thought dad was famous, because at district functions everyone seemed to know we were Rev. Wilson’s children. Now I smile at that thought. Was he famous? Who knows? We were, however, recognizable. Gethsemane was the only church that was predominantly Black and he was the only Black Nazarene pastor in Kentucky.
After childhood years of mostly fond memories, a few less so, we relocated to the Jamaica part of the Queens section of New York City after Dad and Mom were called to Springfield Gardens Church of the Nazarene. The timing was hard. It was the middle of the school year, but really it was because I had just caught feelings for a girl, and young hearts can cut deeply. As we drove away from Lexington, this time the wet cheeks were mine. The timing turned out to be just right for my academic, personal, and spiritual life. After junior high school, I got to attend Stuyvesant, the top public high school in NYC, and got engaged in the Word through Nazarene Teen Bible Quizzing.
Christian higher education was nowhere on my radar, nor my family’s, until the day it became clear to me that Eastern Nazarene College (ENC) was where I was supposed to matriculate. This was later affirmed when ENC offered me an academic scholarship that covered tuition, especially helpful for a pastor’s family. At ENC, my love for learning continued, and I majored in general science while minoring in English, psychology, and theology; I met my future wife and mother of our two daughters; and confirmed that medicine, not pastoring, was to be my life’s calling.
By “random chance,” I included University of Pittsburgh in my pool of medical school applications. After all was said and done, Providence ruled the day.
I selected Pittsburgh just for medical school, then just stayed for a three-year internship and residency in Family Medicine, then just for a two-year fellowship, and then for my first physician job. After some years at South Hills Church of the Nazarene, we settled into Allegheny Center Christian Missionary & Alliance Church in the heart of urban Pittsburgh. One wife, two daughters, many professional roles and adventures, and 25 years later, we uprooted and walked through an unexpected door during the middle of our daughter’s high school years. My wife, Kristen, is the Executive Director of Advancement and External Relations for ENC, and I get to serve at Boston’s largest safety net health care system as Chair of Family Medicine at Boston University Chobanian and Avedisian School of Medicine, Chief of Family Medicine for Boston Medical Center, and President of Boston University Medical Group - Family Physicians, Inc. It is a great opportunity to use what I have been given to be salt and light, hands and feet.
I look forward to our times together, and hope to make them interesting and worthwhile. Wishing for you and yours a healthy, happy New Year!
Dr. Stephen Wilson, MD, MPH, FAAFP, is Chair of Family Medicine at Boston University Chobanian and Avedisian School of Medicine, Chief of Family Medicine for Boston Medical Center, President of Boston University Medical Group - Family Physicians, Inc., and a member of the ENC Board of Trustees.