Your Heart Is the Size of Your Fist: A Doctor Reflects on Ten Years at a Refugee Clinic by Martina Scholtens, M.D.

Reflecting on one’s vocation, American writer and theologian Frederick Buechner said, “The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” These words were important to Dr. Martina Scholtens as she began her profession in a private medical practice in a well-heeled part of Vancouver. They were also part of what drew her away to accept a position at a refugee clinic in the city’s Eastside.

For 10 years, Scholtens worked in an environment where great needs presented themselves at every visit. What she did not expect was that this place would, over time, be a source of deep gladness for her.

On arrival into Canada, every newcomer must see a physician; the clinic where Scholtens worked provided the initial entry into the healthcare system. Your Heart Is the Size of Your Fist is a composite of Scholtens’ experiences as she seeks to provide holistic care. Scholtens’ own heart is broken by the stories of trauma and heartache she hears. She is also filled with joy mixed with professional confusion as newcomers grow to love her because of her kindness in the face of their longing for true connection and friendship. When Scholtens refuses a gift someone offers, she is told, “You don’t need a gift but I need to give one.” Another asks, “Can you help me find a friend?”

Scholtens weaves the stories of her time in the clinic with reflections on her own life and family situation. She is transparent about her conflicting feelings of guilt and gratitude, poverty and privilege, faith and doubt through these 10 years.

“I came to believe in the healing power of bearing witness to suffering” writes Scholtens. Her desire to “reflect, memorialize, and advocate” as a writer-physician is fulfilled in this slim volume. A recommended and accessible read for a wide audience. (Brindle & Glass)

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