Interviewer: How were you approached to join the young-but-established practice that was Tepeyac? What persuaded you to say “yes”?
Dr. Anderson: The simple answer is that my parish priest recommended I meet Dr. Bruchalski. The complete answer is far more complicated. Due to pressures and challenges that at the time I believed were beyond my control, I had been away from the Church during my residency in OB/GYN. To me it was impossible to be a practicing Catholic in that field. Now, I realize that with God, all things are possible, including the resolution of my lack of faith. As the story unfolds, I completed my residency and interviewed for my first job. I told my prospective employer that I believed abortion was wrong and I would not perform that procedure, but I didn’t want to stop others from doing what they believed to be right. The doctor agreed that would be the scope of my practice. I accepted her offer for employment. Soon the difficulties began. Her definition of abortion and mine were different. The differences had to do with the phrase “incompatible with life.” She expected me to end the life of any baby that had a poor prenatal diagnosis that she believed to be fatal. For a while, I acceded to her demand. But something was not right. I felt guilty. I remember perceiving dark clouds in the depths of my soul. They began in the periphery, but eventually they surfaced front and center. I reached my breaking point, and I walked into the confessional. The priest heard my confession and offered to counsel me later in his office if I wished. Two weeks later I was fired without cause from my pro-choice job. It was then that I went to see that priest again. After a long conversation, he recommended, among other things, that I meet Dr. Bruchalski.
Meanwhile, I returned to weekly Sunday Mass. One day I noticed on the church bulletin board an article in the Arlington Catholic Herald that featured Dr. Bruchalski and the Tepeyac Family Center. Right then after Mass, I read the entire article. I was amazed that this man had begun a practice that actually followed the teachings of the Catholic Church. I had never heard of such a thing. I met with him. The meeting was so profound that at its conclusion I asked if he needed an associate. He had just hired someone. The fact is, I had some spiritual growing up to do before I was ready to join Tepeyac.
I found a position in a nominally Catholic practice. Most things went reasonably well for a while. As I grew closer to the Church, I brought my practices into line with Church teaching. But there was one sticking point that I could not resolve. I refused to perform tubal ligations, but when women came in labor in the middle of the night and were scheduled later for repeat cesarean with tubal ligation, they expected me to perform not only the cesarean, but also the tubal ligation. I couldn’t do that, and my refusal led to significant issues within the practice. After much prayer, I realized I had defined my professional life by what I did not do rather than what I did. I wanted to make a positive contribution to women’s health care rather than a negative one. I wanted to support life, to incorporate NFP into medical care, to counsel abortion-vulnerable women, to support women throughout life from a faith-based perspective. I wanted the Divine Healer to be my model. In short, I was ready to join Tepeyac. I re-connected with Dr. Bruchalski, who told me that since we had last spoken, a position in his practice had become available. He offered me a position and I accepted.
Interviewer: Can you give us an impression of what your earliest years with the practice were like? Personal challenges? Professional challenges?
Dr. Anderson: My first day on the job, I hit the ground running. I thought all my problems had been solved. Part of my expectations came true. Part did not. Improving those that were lacking became my immediate contribution to TFC. I organized the chart system, improved quality assurance and implementation, improved communication and developed a call schedule. All the while, I learned everything I could about faith-based medicine. Then I learned to confidently agree to disagree with my non-Catholic and fallen-away Catholic friends. I had expected them to shun me. On the contrary, they seemed to respect me for adhering to my strongly held beliefs. Recently, I completed my tenure as OB/GYN Department Chair at INOVA Fair Oaks Hospital. In my estimation, my having held that position is confirmation that the OB/GYNs there respect my adhering to my conscience, and also my professional development.
Interviewer: Can you point to a time or an event that marked your beginning to feel thoroughly at home as a Tepeyac physician?
Dr. Anderson: I felt thoroughly at home at Tepeyac when my 25-year-old daughter suffered a fatal motor vehicle accident. It was shocking to have just seen her a few days before the accident and then to learn she had died at the scene. My faith is what sustained me through those terrible times. I experienced tremendous support from Dr. Bruchalski, the Tepeyac staff and patients. It amazed me that so many priests celebrated her funeral Mass and that so many Tepeyac staff and patients attended it. That is when I knew I had found my forever practice.
Interviewer: What were your highest and lowest moments providing pro-life health care as a Tepeyac doctor?
Dr. Anderson: My delight is caring for pregnant women during pregnancy, helping them to birth their babies and caring for them afterwards. I cannot describe the joy I experience as I help usher God’s children into His world. Simply stated, it is my passion. Daily, I try to emulate Mary as she helped Elizabeth during her pregnancy and St. John the Baptist’s birth. She inspires me and is my role model.
My greatest challenge has come not from the religious world, but from traditional medicine. That challenge has been the implementation of electronic medical records. It is difficult for any healthcare provider to keep the patient at the center of the medical experience when there is typing to do. Given the importance we at Tepeyac place on treating the whole person – body, soul, and spirit, it is even more important for us to maintain the personal connection while entering data. It is a challenge to do so, and it is our priority.
Interviewer: What kind(s) of growth as a physician have you realized through your work at Tepeyac?
Dr. Anderson: When I completed my residency, I became board certified. At the time, board certification was good for the entirety of professional life. Since that time, the guidelines have changed dramatically. Currently, our certification process is ongoing; granting of hospital-based procedure privileges requires demonstration of competence; and certification of ability to perform new procedures requires continuing medical education and proctoring. I have continued to update my skills by learning about many advanced surgical techniques and new equipment. It is my firm belief that physicians must remain current in their field no matter what their beliefs. Additionally, we at Tepeyac help not only each other, but also outside students to integrate our faith into providing excellent healthcare for women.
Interviewer: What would you consider to be your legacy to Tepeyac and what do you consider to be its lasting gift to you?
Dr. Anderson: Without question, I consider my legacy to be the initiation of the Kristen Anderson Perinatal Hospice. It was out of my pain, suffering and despair that I was blessed to develop the program. Very soon in my grief for the death of my daughter, I realized my faith in God would get me through the life-altering challenge. My experience highlighted the fact that life is 100% terminal. Each of us will die someday. What really matters is our contribution to the other people of this world, not how long we spend here. God gives each of us gifts which He expects us to share. He gave me the gift of peace, and I am to pass that peace on to others who are walking the difficult path that I once walked. My role is to mentor those who are coming after me. It is my joy to combine my spirituality with my professional training to help each person live the Gospel of Life in his or her own medical care. Tepeyac has taught me to do this, and that is Tepeyac’s gift to me.