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Friday May 14, 2021
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December 2004 - Volume 1 - Issue 5
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Doctor, Minister, Teacher and Author: Edwin H. Hamilton, M.D., D. Min.

To relieve human suffering.

These four words form the motto of the Alpha Omega Alpha Medical Honor Society, but they also serve as a personal credo for Doctor Edwin H. Hamilton, a South Florida physician who has been honored by that society and by countless other groups and organizations for his remarkable achievements and contributions. Hamilton has made the relief of human suffering his life’s work, but he has gone about his work in an exceptional way, as both a physician/surgeon and as an ordained minister. He has doctoral degrees in both medicine and ministry, and while that may be an unusual combination of professions, Hamilton sees them as naturally compatible. For him, medical care and spiritual care are inseparable.

Hamilton, a graduate of Meharry Medical College and Union Theological Seminary, has been a practicing physician for many decades and is at an age at which retirement would seem appealing – but he doesn’t have any plans to slow down. "Oh, I think about it sometimes," he laughs. In addition to seeing patients at his two offices, in Fort Lauderdale and Pompano Beach, Hamilton serves as a volunteer with the Medivan Health and Community Services program, bringing free health care to the underserved, and is a health educator and advocate who is deeply committed to bringing preventative care and health education to the community, primarily through the churches.

He is also an author and sought-after speaker who has traveled to bring his vision of "health and wellness ministry" to others. Hamilton’s book, The Health and Wellness Ministry in the African-American Church," published by Xulon Press, is a 148-page guide to the development of preventative health education outreach programs, including community health fairs. Hamilton believes that preventative care and education need to be given a much higher place in the modern health care system. He cites the 1% of the annual health care budget that goes to prevention as woefully inadequate and is striving to change that.

Too many health care dollars are spent on treating preventable diseases, often with expensive drugs, in his opinion. While he believes that the drugs available to treat diseases can be wonderfully effective, he also feels that they become a crutch.

"People think that there is a pill for everything and they want the doctor to write prescriptions," he says.

"They want to take a pill rather than make the lifestyle modifications that would help them regain their health. If the pill makes them feel better or makes the blood pressure go down, they are not motivated to change their behavior.

Just giving out prescriptions is not the true practice of medicine. Doctors have to get to the core of the problem by asking the right questions. What circumstances are being brought to bear on this person’s condition? Each person is a unique individual and brings a unique set of circumstances – no one is simply ‘a patient with hypertension.’"

Hamilton sometimes counsels his patients to work at becoming spiritually stronger. He views this as the real issue in many of the health problems plaguing Americans, such as smoking and overeating, and the consequences of those behaviors – heart disease, cancer, diabetes and hypertension.

"Far too many people die of lifestyle diseases and these deaths can be reduced. Communities have to take more responsibility, teaching the young people especially. We always hear that someone has died of a ‘sudden heart attack’ – but a heart attack never happens suddenly; they take years to happen. We know that health education does make a difference, making people more aware. We need to motivate and teach people to make healthy choices. It’s mind over matter – we need to respect our bodies, listen to our bodies and be in control."

Hamilton recognizes that physicians have little time to spend conversing with their patients, but believes that they can always make a "spiritual connection" with each person. In his own practice, he always greets his patients with a warm smile and a handshake and tries to truly listen. He uses the phrase "the prominence of the person" to describe his approach.

"We strive to treat the illness but the patient is not the illness. There is that one-ness that each brings; I respect that," he says. "People are crying out, and they are crying out in so many ways. Often they cannot tell you what is really wrong. You have to listen deeply and you have to help. We all need help at some point and we are all woven together. It’s as the poet John Donne said, ‘No man is an island’ and ‘Each man’s death reduces me.’"

There is a simple story that Hamilton tells to illustrate his point about human interdependence. He had attended a funeral one weekend in his hometown of Fort Myers, and on the way home, his car broke down. He was alone and it was late at night. He pulled over on the highway and before long, a truck stopped. Naturally, Hamilton felt apprehensive: "I was driving a fancy car and it was very dark; no one else was around. I had no idea who was coming and what his intentions were." The man from the truck approached him and spoke. "Dr. Hamilton? You operated on me, a long time ago. I had no money at the time and you didn’t charge me. I recognize you. How can I help you?"

The gentleman helped Hamilton get home safely, and to this day, the doctor remembers his face but never thought to ask his name. Now he sees that as a positive thing. "Who is this man? He is anonymous. I can think of him as every man, as ‘a certain man.’ I never thought, when I was helping him, that one day I would be the one in need and he would be there for me. When you help another, you have no idea what it means to them and how it will be paid back to you. But it will be paid back."

Hamilton feels that he has been paid back generously. He describes his experiences as doctor of medicine and ministry as "satisfying and gratifying" and he is pleased that many medical schools are now adding a spiritual component to the curriculum. But he feels that this trend is not exactly new. "Medicine and spirituality have walked together from time immemorial. Many doctors are deeply spiritual and more of them are entering ministry. For me, medicine is biblically-based and has always been a ministry."

Hamilton has been the recipient of countless prestigious awards and honors throughout his career and says that he has "stacks and stacks" of plaques and certificates – but they do not adorn the walls of his offices. He has simply been too busy to mount all those awards. For him, every day begins at 5AM. He plans to continue practicing medicine, serving as a Baptist minister, assisting with community outreach programs, lecturing, teaching and writing more books. The best award, to him, is clearly his family – son Dwain, an anesthesiologist at Yale; daughter Edwina, who has a doctorate in psychology; and daughter Carla, a Head Start teacher and entrepreneur.

There is one other award, though, that brings him particular pride, and that is the Doctor of the Year award presented to him three years ago by his peers in the Caducean Society of Greater Fort Lauderdale. Engraved on this award are words that could have been written just for Edwin Hamilton: "The true measure of a man is not what he has, but what he has given."

To contact Dr. Hamilton, call (954) 484-8333. To order Dr. Hamilton’s book, go to www.xulonpress.com.
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