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Hot Springs Doctor Hopes to Mix Medicine & Ministry

May 21, 2019 09:15AM ● By MED Magazine

Growing up in Montana, Hot Springs family doctor David Steele, MD, thought for a time about becoming a minister. "I contemplated it, but I didn't feel the call," he said. Instead, he became a doctor.

Steele graduated from the University of South Dakota School of Medicine in 1997 and completed his family practice residency in Marquette, Michigan. He practiced medicine in the Black Hills, purchasing his Hot Springs medical clinic in 2007. Ten years later, the clinic became part of Regional Health.

But a few years ago the call to the ministry returned and this time Steele answered. "I think it is important to keep thinking about what you want to do with your life and not to be afraid to change directions," he says. About that time, he was talking with his wife about what his life would be like if he had not become a doctor. "She told me I would make a good pastor. She didn't know I had been thinking about it," he recalled.

Dr. Steele, 58, is now in his third year at Lutheran Seminary in St. Paul. He's been taking classes online, with intense, one-week onsite sessions twice a year. At the end of July, Steele will leave his Hot Springs practice to devote his time to completing his seminary work. But he is quick to add that he sees this as a change in approach, rather than a move away from medicine.

“I don’t think I’m leaving medicine,” he says. “I just don’t know that I’m going to continue to be a ‘traditional’ family practice doctor. I think there may be a way to combine them both but I’m just not sure yet how that’s going to happen.”

In the meantime, Dr. Steele will remain Medical Director of Grace of the Pines Hospice and the State Veterans Home, both in Hot Springs. He has also considered hospital chaplaincy. He will complete his required clinical pastoral education, which is akin to an internship, in VA facilities in Hot Springs and Fort Meade. After that, he hopes to have a clearer picture of how medicine and ministry might mix.

“These two areas do not overlap, they are integrated,” says Steele, who says he still feels “called” to medicine. “There is a huge spiritual component to health. We are spiritual beings. In family medicine, we are taught the body-mind-spirit model. If one is ill, the others are going to be impacted.”