first became interested in medicine when I was in grade school. My dad is a dentist and he used to take call at the hospital at the military base at which we were stationed. I loved the stories of when he would go in to take care of people... the smell of his scrubs when he would come home... how he helped people get better.
I always enjoyed looking at medical books in our school library, learning about anatomy, reading about different systems of the body. From that early age, I knew I wanted to be a doctor.
My first true medical exposure occurred on a two month trip to a hospital in India while I was in college. I spent time in most of the wards of the hospital, helping out however I could. But it was surgery that captured my awe the most.
I loved the tangible, mechanical nature of surgical care. Real, discrete actions were performed, and people got better on account of it. The concrete and touchable nature of it appealed to me. This was further reinforced during my time at medical school.
Surgery was immersive - it required all of you. You had to have the intellectual base, the clinical acumen and judgment. You had to have the physical stamina for long cases late at night, the crisp precision to make the right move the first time when it mattered most. The best surgeons had the compassion and empathy to love their patients, along with the courage and ability to do what was needed - even when it was difficult - and live with the outcomes and consequences. I really couldn't imagine wanting to be anything other than a surgeon.
My development as a surgeon has occurred alongside and within the context of my faith as a follower of Jesus. I first felt a call to serve those in need in a cross-cultural setting during that first trip to India. I was committed to serving overseas by the time I began surgical training in residency. By the time of graduation from residency, my wife and I knew that we were headed toward Ethiopia to train surgeons with the Pan African Academy of Christian Surgeons (PAACS). I learned of PAACS while in medical school. PAACS establishes and administrates surgical training programs at hospitals in Africa, training surgeons to expand much-need surgical capacity for those most in need.
Our family spent six years in Ethiopia, training surgeons, ministering to patients, and helping to establish the training program. We moved back to the United States in 2014, but I have been blessed to be able to continue support for PAACS here. I am currently involved with support for PAACS, assisting with its general surgery council, and helping to support the existing training programs from the vantage of a previous program director.
Since moving to Fort Worth, we have so enjoyed building a home here and seeing our family take root. Professionally, I have enjoyed the opportunities here to care for patients in this community. Many things have changed in surgery in my time in Ethiopia! I have been amazed at advances in minimally invasive general surgery, especially robotic hernia surgery and advanced abdominal wall reconstruction. This was an area of surgery that was previously quite unsatisfying. Complex hernias are challenging to repair even today, but the results are so much better than they used to be. I am amazed at how much this field of surgery has advanced and how I am able to truly help people who are really suffering and help them in a real and impactful way that was simply not possible before.
I find my calling as a surgeon very gratifying - I love helping people live better!
If at my funeral they say that Dr. Gray loved his patients, then I’ll call that a win.
- Dr. Paul Gray, MD