Judith Anne Culpepper M.D.1
|Father*||Col. Julius Marlin Culpepper Jr.2 (5 Dec 1927 - 15 Mar 2011)|
|Charts||John Culpepper of Jones Co., GA: Descendant Chart|
|Last Edited||17 Mar 2011|
- Judith Culpepper, Episcopal Priest and Physician
Doctor Judith Culpepper Finds Professional Peace As She Studies For Episcopal Priesthood
Michelle Dearmond, The Indianapolis Star; 29 Jul 1993
A pool of water fills quietly in a next-door chapel as a tall, dark-haired woman talks. She is describing the events that brought her to the Christian Theological Seminary.
The water's ripples reflect afternoon sun streaming in through the skylight, just as her eyes reflect her emotions.
Dr. Judith Culpepper spends much of her time here, preparing to become an Episcopal priest.
She fills her days with studying, praying and doing occasional volunteer work at a shelter for the homeless. She also is a teaching assistant at the seminary and has a part-time job.
But life has not always been so tranquil for the 40-year-old internist.
Seven years ago, Culpepper, a native of South Carolina, spent her days and nights with intensive-care patients at Methodist Hospital. Her caseload ranged from 10 to 30 patients.
The pace was hectic: She reviewed X-rays and lab results, poked needles into patients, and fed them intravenously. She pushed ventilator tubes down their throats to make them breathe. She rushed to the hospital at a moment's notice to tend to the dying. She gave bad news to family members, and asked permission to perform procedures which, many times, they had never heard of.
Then, Culpepper decided she had had enough. She left medicine.
"I think I saw so much tragedy day after day that it was wearing me down," she says, her shoulders dropping as she remembered the stress.
"Of course, people were surprised, but I just said I was burned out... and life is so much better now."
After leaving her job as associate medical director at the hospital's critical-care unit, Culpepper took a part-time job as a physician consultant for Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Indiana, now known as The Associated Group.
She became more involved
And she began enjoying life again.
Her face brightens and relaxes as she talks about how her decision enabled her to spend more time with friends, to rediscover her love of poetry and to get more involved with her church, St. Paul's Episcopal Church, on the city's Northside.
"I was finding myself more interested in my church. I started talking to the rector," she says, referring to her pastor, the Rev. Tom F. Stoll.
After a few years, she decided to enroll in a class at the seminary, run by the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). She is the only medical doctor out of a student body of 345, CTS officials say.
Classes at the Northside seminary, along with much guidance from her newfound mentors, helped Culpepper realize that she was being called to be a priest.
"I began to feel drawn to the sacramental end of ministry."
The realization was a "gradually evolving thing. It involved reflecting and meditating in solitude and talking with someone I trust and respect."
A key element of that realization occurred when she was back in her former workplace, not as a doctor, but as a student chaplain.
She was taking a clinical pastoral education class required by her bishop. The class involved writing papers, discussing them with her peers and spending time with hospital patients.
"I remember doing a night call shift with a chaplain, sitting and holding the hand of a mother whose baby was dying in ICU (the intensive-care unit).
"I realized that, even in the pain and grief I felt when I was holding that woman's hand, underneath I felt peace. The peace came from knowing that God is there with us when we are there for each other."
Although Culpepper helped a lot of people through her work in intensive care, she didn't feel satisfied.
"I felt a deep responsibility, now I realize I'm not alone in my responsibility, that's a lightening of the load. There's a peace I didn't have before, at least not doing ICU work."
Peace in intensive care
But, she insists, that doesn't mean it's impossible to find peace as an intensive-care doctor.
"A lot of ministry is involved in the ICU. I just don't have that in me anymore... but those are remarkable people," she notes.
Although Culpepper 's spiritual journey to ordination is far from complete, that feeling of peace lets her know she's on the right road.
After leaving Methodist Hospital, she found a way to use her medical skills, without the stress that she felt as an intensive-care doctor.
Every six weeks for the past few years, she has been going to the Lighthouse Mission, a shelter for homeless men, and giving free medical care. She volunteers through the Gennesaret Free Clinic, a not-for-profit corporation established in 1988 to serve the medical needs of Indianapolis' homeless.
"Sometimes, we see as few as 15 or as many as 22... we never know what we'll have."
She can count on foot problems and burns, especially in the winter, as well as upper-respiratory problems.
Regardless of what she diagnoses or how many patients she sees, Culpepper says her time there is "deeply rewarding.
"I feel a very strong call to help people who might otherwise not get it (medical care)."
Since leaving the intensive-care unit, Culpepper has determined that being a doctor will always be a part of who she is.
"I don't feel like I'm turning my back on it. I now understand it to be a part of my ministry."
Value of being active
The value she places on keeping current and active in the medical profession is something that those around her have recognized.
"I think what is remarkable is the way she's worked to integrate her medical skills with what she's learned here," said Joseph Czolgosz, senior chaplain at Methodist Hospital and the instructor in her clinical pastoral education class.
Stoll says he does not see Culpepper turning her back on medicine.
Culpepper says Stoll was vital in helping her understand her call to ordained ministry, which the Episcopal church considers a public process that requires the input of many people.
"We're taught that a call to ordained ministry should be discerned by the individual and by the church," she explains.
Stoll's role in that process involved spending "time listening and reflecting, trying to help her clarify the directions and sort through and be clear about what she was responding to," he says.
She started her formal application process for ordination about three years ago when she spent a year applying to become a postulant. A postulant is a probationary candidate for priesthood.
Culpepper wrote a 10-page letter of application, had letters of recommendation from Stoll and the church's elected members, interviewed with the bishop, attended retreats with a diocesan committee and interned at a church. She also had to take a physical exam and be tested and interviewed by a psychologist and psychiatrist.
"I entered into the process with the attitude that I need the help of the church to explore. Going through that process gave me food for thought, to hear other perspectives and get encouragement," says Culpepper, who is not married.
Culpepper was accepted as a postulant in April 1991, and was accepted for the next step of candidacy in February 1993, she said.
Although she knows she always wants to practice medicine in some capacity, and she's well on her way to being ordained as an Episcopal priest, many things remain uncertain.
She doesn't know yet where she will go after leaving the seminary and spending a year at an Episcopal school. She hopes to begin work in a local parish, but doesn't know if that will be the case.
She would like to expand her medical work with the homeless, but that need may be drastically changed with the revamping of the nation's health care system, she said.
Whatever the outcome, Culpepper is satisfied with her choices. She's confident about the future because "we've got to try and trust in God."
After all, that's what she did a few years ago, and "Life is so much better now."
Volunteer health clinic directed by Dr. Judith Culpepper finds success in 3 months.
St. Thomas Episcopal Church center is the first in the county to serve families without insurance.
Jennifer Marmon Pruitt; The Indianapolis Star, 8 Jul 1996
Whiteland, Ind. - Volunteers for the health clinic at St. Thomas Episcopal Church in Whiteland, in only its third month of operation, are surprised by its success.
The clinic is the first in Johnson County to serve families that do not have health insurance or that otherwise could not afford health care. Since opening in April, the clinic has averaged several visits each Saturday from new and repeat patients.
"None have had health insurance, and they all have had a difficult time finding the health care they need," said Dr. Judith Culpepper , medical director of the clinic and an associate priest at St. Thomas.
Patients have been treated for ailments such as hypertension and lung problems, Culpepper said. Many of the patients have been referred to the clinic by local ministers and social service agencies.
Culpepper said she feared the service might encounter a number of patients who didn't qualify for the service.
"We were afraid we might have a huge turnout of people not appropriate to what we're trying to do, but that just has not happened," she said.
After a study revealed there are nearly 1,200 county families with incomes below the poverty level, the Partnership for a Healthier Johnson County stepped in to address the issue.
The committee helps the Johnson Memorial Health Foundation implement health programs. The groups approved Culpepper's clinic proposal, and the foundation is providing $11,000 of the first year's budget.
Culpepper, who for years has volunteered at health clinics for the homeless in Indianapolis, said she has. been surprised at the severity of the medical problems treated at the St. Thomas clinic.
Despite the clinic's success, Culpepper said there are no plans to be open on more days.
"Rather than increasing our hours, I think we would like to increase the services we provide during those hours," Culpepper said. "For example, right now we don't treat children because we don't have a pediatric nurse or physician."
Upon registration, patients complete a survey that will help the clinic determine what services are needed.
The clinic is seeking volunteer nurses and physicians and non-medical personnel to register patients. For more information, to make a donation or to volunteer, call (317) 535-6057.
A Caring Clinic Directed by Dr. Judith Culpepper.
People who can't afford the costs of health care appreciate free treatment provided at church.
Shelley Swift, The Indianapolis Star/The Indianapolis News, 14 Jul 1999
Whiteland, Ind. - Judy Culpepper reflected the relief she saw flood over her patient's face.
With one stroke behind him and another threatening to strike his body any day, the middle-aged man was overcome with gratitude when he realized the doctor was offering to examine him for free.
He couldn't afford the high price of health care or insurance, and until the St. Thomas Clinic opened, he left his health in the hands of fate.
Culpepper diagnosed the man's hypertension and supplied him with free medication. Her actions may have saved his life.
It's all in a day's work at the clinic tucked inside St. Thomas Episcopal Church in Whiteland.
The man with hypertension was among the first patients seen at St. Thomas Clinic when it opened April 14, 1996.
Three years later, the clinic - which started on a trial basis - is going strong.
More than 400 patients have been treated. The clinic has welcomed more than 2,100 visitors.
"Things are certainly going well, and I think we have certainly documented that a need exists for free health care in this county," said Culpepper, a priest and licensed physician who now directs the clinic.
From 9 a.m. to noon each Wednesday and Saturday, those without health insurance can be examined for free.
The entire clinic staff consists of volunteers, including doctors, nurses, clerical staff, nutritional counselors, social workers and mental health specialists.
Patients come from all parts of the county, and the waiting room sometimes holds 15 to 20.
Each patient is grateful to find health care workers willing to help for free.
"Over the past three years, it's gotten busier and busier," said Alice Goshorn, a deacon at the church who volunteers at the clinic.
Nearly every corner of the church is used as patients arrive Wednesdays and Saturdays.
The modest parish hall is divided into a reception area, consulting room and prescription area.
The nearby kitchen provides a private setting where social workers interact with patients.
Down the hall is a nursery that doubles as the clinic director's office.
Two classrooms are used as examining rooms, where donated examining tables and metal folding chairs take over the space used for coffee hour each Sunday after church.
"We certainly use every inch of space, but it's worth it when you consider the enormous amount of good this clinic is doing," Goshorn said.
Goshorn also volunteers for Partnership for a Healthier Johnson County, an agency focused on improving the overall health of county residents.
The Partnership group provided the funding to launch the clinic and continues to support it today.
The clinic was intended to offer primary health care but has expanded to include nutritional counseling and social services.
"By expanding our services, we're able to meet more of each patient's needs," said Culpepper, who now ministers at a Bloomington church.
"A person may come in for hypertension, but they may also need some help getting on food stamps or dealing with an anger problem. These are the types of things a social worker can help with," she said.
Another of the clinic's new services is the prescription program, run by the Partnership agency. Volunteers help educate patients about their medications and provide them at no cost.
Patients come in for a variety of reasons, the most common being hypertension and upper respiratory infections.
The third most common diagnosis is depression or anxiety.
Thirty-six percent of patients are treated for one diagnosis, while the rest are treated for multiple problems. Many patients are referred by hospitals or welfare agencies, but most are referred by relatives and friends. "We seem to have created a name for ourselves in the county," said Culpepper, "And I think that's great." Clinic information The St. Thomas Clinic is at 600 N. Paul Hand Blvd., just east of U.S. 31 and one mile south of Whiteland Road. The clinic has a continuing need for volunteers and supplies. Those wishing to donate may call (317) 535-6057.
- The State, Columbia, SC.
Obituary for Col. Julius Marlin "Mike" Culpepper Jr. (#8023), published 17 Mar 2011.