This is part 2 of 4 in a series about Heart to Heart International, a non-profit organization that seeks to strengthen communities through improving health access and providing humanitarian development and crisis relief worldwide. You can read part 1 about Steve Hower, Heart to Heart’s Director of Corporate Relations, here.
“I think that one of the best definitions I’ve heard of a religious experience . . . was an emotionally significant event—one that dealt with God or ultimate concerns—resulting in appropriate actions,” Dr. Rick Randolph said. “So, basically, it changes you. For me, that was down in Haiti.”
After the Haiti earthquake in 2010, Dr. Randolph went with Heart to Heart International (HHI) to Léogâne, Haiti, where he helped provide emergency medical care.
There, a lady came in, saying, “My heart hurts.”
Dr. Randolph began asking all of his normal questions, trying to diagnose her problem. “What’s the nature of the pain? How long has it been there? What makes it better or worse?”
After failing to receive any clarifying answers, he finally asked, “What were you doing at the time of the earthquake?”
Through a translator, he learned that she had been teaching her children outside the house and had sent them back in to get some more homework just before the earthquake occurred. In horror, she watched her home collapse around the children. None of them survived.
“What was obvious at that point was that her heart was hurting, but it was her spiritual heart,” Dr. Randolph said. “I couldn’t do anything for her but hold her hand and pray with her.”
That experience and others like it in Haiti convinced him something in his life needed to change.
“I could go back to Kansas and could go take care of patients, but there were people dying for the absence of things that I could provide. Taking care of patients and receiving pay for it just did not feel like what I was called to do,” he explained.
Dr. Randolph had been inspired to study medicine during his time in the military. It had been the middle of a December night when he was acting as an umpire for a field artillery exercise. Although he was on radio watch, nothing was going on, and he was twiddling his thumbs, reading a Psychology Today magazine, when he came across a full-page ad asking people to become Jesuit priests. His interest was piqued because the topic seemed so bizarre, and as he read, he realized that he couldn’t become a priest, but the intellectual aspect and the idea of helping people sounded appealing.
“It was like blink, a light bulb went on. ‘You could do medicine.’”
So he got out of the military, went to medical school, and then returned to active duty for eight years before going back to Kansas where he became a family physician.
He met Dr. Gary Morsch and learned about HHI when he and Dr. Morsch were serving as physicians in the National Guard in Iraq near the Iranian border. Although both were family physicians from the Kansas City area, it took the journey to Iraq for them to meet.
After that, Dr. Randolph became a regular volunteer with HHI. He went to Haiti a few times, and those trips began changing his life. Then, in 2014, the organization became involved with the effort to fight Ebola in Liberia. Dr. Randolph headed over for a six-week stint, which turned into a five-month stay when he took on the role as Chief Medical Officer in HHI’s Ebola Treatment Unit.
The experience was a challenge. He had to learn to balance his job running the treatment unit, with handling finances, with learning to work with native leaders. “It was really a stretching, learning experience,” he said.
But it also gave him the chance to watch many people’s lives being changed, especially those of the HHI personnel. In particular, he enjoyed watching one man who was working as a nurse for six months help form a food cooperative for the people in the area.
“It’s either the great volunteers we attract or one of the effects we have on volunteers,” he said with a chuckle. “Truthfully, who can tell? But it’s a great result.”
When Dr. Randolph returned from Liberia, he was ready for a more permanent change. “It was really a conversion in the truest sense of the word, meaning ‘a turning,’ in that that was when I felt compelled to work with Heart to Heart on a daily basis.”
Today, he works full-time as HHI’s Chief Medical Officer. As part of his role there, he is helping HHI develop a rural health program in Southeast Missouri. He views his job as much more than just work—it is his calling.
“When you say, ‘I’ve heard a call to do this,’ it’s always incumbent to search the call,” he explained. “My first question is always, ‘Well, why do you feel called? What led you to feel this?’ So I have to apply that to myself. I’ve been given a broad range of experiences and skill. For me to use them, the first thing that comes to mind [regarding how to use them] is the parable of the king who gives the talents. I could go back and do clinic and bury my talent, or I can go and invest it. So I try to find the best way to utilize gifts I’ve been given.”