Dr. Jim Gardner '96 doesn’t believe in compartmentalizing. “There are three levels to our composition — mind, body and spirit,” he says, “and it’s only when those things are in unison together that we will feel complete. That’s my job — to unify those three areas.”
This is Jim’s personal mission, and it’s also the mission of his private practice in New Wilmington, Pennsylvania. At Family Medical Care of Lawrence County, each patient is treated as a whole person, made in the image of God.
“Some people put their hope in the things of this world.” Gardner says, “But Psalm 20 tells us to trust in the name of the Lord, because worldly securities will fail.”
As Jim was growing up, his family gave him a solid foundation in faith and encouraged him to pursue a Christian education. Along with his three older sisters and a younger brother, he was the third generation of his family to go to Geneva College. He believes that surrounding himself with fellow believers during one of the most formative times of his life was the best decision he could have made.
“The people you’re around have a very clear impact on you in college,” Gardner says. He had the opportunity to serve in leadership roles in his residence hall and on the student council and says the experience really pushed him to think about who he was and what it meant to do his absolute best for God . “Through it all, it was a process of growing closer to the Lord and becoming continually sanctified but never satisfied with being the same person I was a year ago.”
Gardner went on to Jefferson Medical School, where he learned to appreciate the solid foundation he’d built at Geneva. “I had to be very clear in my faith in a place where everyone else was clearly opposed to it, but that gave me the courage to stand up for my beliefs,” he says.
He recalls one class in particular that he says “automatically put a mark on my head as far as being a Christian. There were over 230 people in a lecture, and the professor would go up on stage to tell us how to counsel patients on social issues. One day the issue was abortion, and the professor decided we were going to do an exercise. He asked everyone who was pro-life to raise their hand. I was the only one.”
Another trait that set Gardner apart from his classmates at medical school was the work ethic he learned from his biology professors at Geneva. “Work has a purpose and focus, because you’re not doing it just for material gain but for God’s glory,” he says. “That makes your work feels like less effort because you’re doing it for a very clear impact.”
After graduating from Jefferson, he chose to specialize in family medicine. This meant differing from the long line of surgeons in his family, but he believed that a family practice would enable him to make a greater impact for the gospel.
Gardner also decided to complete his residency with an organization that shared the Christ-centered mission he’d experienced at Geneva. He was accepted into a family practice residency at In His IMAGE (International Medicine And Graduate Education). One of only two Christian residency programs in the country, In His IMAGE also had a reputation for excellence.
“The other residents ahead of me were scoring in the top five percent on the board exams, better than a lot of ivy league programs,” he says. “That gave me an even a stronger basis for practicing medicine from a faith perspective.”
Today, Gardner’s practice in the small town of New Wilmington covers the whole spectrum of care, from the beginning of life to death. And along with the medication he prescribes for physical healing, he prays with his patients and directs them to God’s Word as their only source of true hope.
But just as God alone can heal their physical bodies, Gardner knows only God can heal his patients’ hearts. “It’s not our job to convert people but to be the light in the darkness,” he says. “The Holy Spirit does the conversion.”