'ReminderNews' reporter is part of Connecticut Authors Trail

By Melanie Savage - Staff Writer
Jewett City - posted Tue., Jul. 19, 2011
'Heart Sounds' features interviews with 12 physicians who are also practicing Catholics. - Contributed Photo

Janice Steinhagen was perusing the job listings on Craigslist when she happened upon an advertisement that caught her eye. “He was looking for a recent college graduate,” she said with a laugh. “I told him it’s been a while since I graduated from college, but I’ve done a lot of Catholic writing.” The “he” in question is Dr. John Howland, the northeast president of the Catholic Medical Association. Howland was looking for someone to collaborate on a book. He and Steinhagen hit it off, and “Heart Sounds” was published last fall. Steinhagen will appear at the Slater Library on July 27 as part of the 2011 Connecticut Authors Trail to discuss the book.

“It’s a book on a mission,” said Steinhagen. Howland is a convert to the Catholic faith himself. “He’s hoping to encourage a more embracing practice of faith, to help Catholic doctors more fully practice their faith as they practice medicine,” said Steinhagen. Howland supplied the names of 12 physicians in and around the Worcester, Mass., area. “The goal was to do an interview of at least two hours per doctor,” said Steinhagen. She recorded the interviews for later editing into first-person narratives.

“They’re amazing stories,” said Steinhagen. “I’m still kind of floored that these people were willing to bear their souls to me.” Steinhagen herself is a practicing Catholic, and a writer in both the secular and Catholic realms. She served as a founding editor of the “Four County Catholic,” the newspaper of the Catholic Diocese of Norwich, and her work has appeared in numerous other publications. Currently, she is the staff reporter for the Norwich and Jewett City editions of the ReminderNews.

The doctors featured in “Heart Sounds” span the generations, from a second-year medical student to a physician in his 70s, still practicing despite his fight with terminal cancer. Some were recent converts, others lifelong Catholics. But Steinhagen was struck by a common thread that ran through their stories. “In some sense, they all perceived Christ in the guise of their patients,” she said. Whether dealing with a cranky old woman or an irritable, screaming child, “Christ is in there somewhere,” said Steinhagen. “And so they treat the person with the respect and dignity that they would give to Jesus.”

Among many memorable stories, one that stands out for Steinhagen is that of Dr. Allan Ramey, a rheumatologist from Massachusetts. He and his wife lost their oldest child to an auto accident. “She was traveling home from college,” said Steinhagen. Later, two days before Sept. 11, 2001, Ramey’s wife passed away. “He was left with seven kids to care for,” said Steinhagen, “the youngest being 2 years old.”

Another inspirational story came from Dr. Lori Warzecki. “She has traveled all over the world doing medical missionary work,” said Steinhagen. “She facilitates treatment for impoverished patients who otherwise wouldn’t get what they need.”

Throughout extraordinary trials, and more ordinary challenges such as overwork, medical bureaucracy and a lack of free time, the 12 doctors featured in “Heart Sounds” relied upon their faith to help guide them. “They see their profession as a calling, not just a career,” said Steinhagen.

“Heart Sounds” was originally envisioned for Catholic physicians. “An engaging story can do a lot more than a lecture or a sermon to inspire people,” said Steinhagen. But the book should also appeal to a much larger audience. “There is something about the medical profession that is compelling, that draws us in as an audience,” said Steinhagen.

Janice Steinhagen will appear on Wednesday, July 27, at 6 p.m. at the Slater Library, 26 Main St., in Jewett City. For more information and a complete listing of events regarding the 2011 Connecticut Authors Trail, go to http://sites.google.com/site/connecticutauthorstrail2011. You can obtain a copy of "Heart Sounds" through Amazon.com, or through the publisher’s website (www.marian.org) or phone number (1-800-462-7426). Steinhagen will have a limited number of copies available during her Authors Trail appearance.

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