By BETSY TAYLOR
Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center in Spokane, Wash., has named its maternity clinic for a priest and doctor to recognize him for his dedicated service in caring for patients, including a commitment to serving mothers who are sometimes young, unmarried, and have limited resources for medical care. It christened the "Father Stan Malnar, MD, Maternity Clinic" earlier this year.
Fr. Malnar, 68, is a Roman Catholic priest and a doctor of family medicine who first came to Providence Sacred Heart for a medical school clerkship in pediatrics. He completed an obstetrics fellowship there in 1984 and was appointed director of the hospital's maternity clinic in 1989.
"I had come here during medical school, and I fell in love with it during medical school," said Fr. Malnar. "What can you say about a place that takes care of patients and families from the heart?"
Leaders of Providence Sacred Heart credit Fr. Malnar for providing just that type of heartfelt care. The clinic treats patients with insurance and also those who do not have the means to pay. Some loyal patients return again during a second or third pregnancy, a testament to the strength of the doctor-patient relationship they've built with Fr. Malnar.
Fr. Stan Malnar, MD, is honored on March 31 at Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center in Spokane, Wash., when the maternity clinic is renamed in his honor. A doctor of family medicine, Fr. Malnar is recognized by his colleagues and patients for his genuine care for all the clinic's patients, who are treated without regard to their ability to pay for services.
When it renamed its maternity clinic in his honor in March, Providence Health Care's Chief Executive Elaine Couture said, "Too often, people are not recognized for their service or their inspiration until they're gone. We didn't want to wait with Fr. Stan. His influence on families in this region has been too important for us not to show our appreciation, now, for the impact he has made."
She said Providence Sacred Heart had tried to name the clinic after Fr. Malnar a few years ago, but he insisted he not be singled out for the honor since the clinic was a reflection of the work of so many at Sacred Heart. This time around, she said, she and Mike Wilson, the former chief executive of Providence Health Care, who also was adamant about honoring Fr. Malnar, didn't ask the priest to reconsider, they just told him "and his only choice was how his name would appear."
Fr. Malnar said he usually doesn't tell patients that he's a priest, but many come to find out in time. Patients will find out sooner, now, since it's hard to miss "Father Stan Malnar, MD," in large lettering on the clinic wall. "It feels a little awkward to come to a clinic with your name on it, and a plaque," Fr. Malnar noted.
Fr. Malnar also makes rounds at Hospice of Spokane where he provides medical and pastoral care. He said of medicine and priesthood, they "give you an entrance into people's lives at critical moments, the birth of a child, a serious illness, life crisis, death and dying. In those moments, you seek and experience goodness, care, generosity, graciousness. You are allowed into those moments when people are the most vulnerable, and what a gift."
Fr. Malnar has been invited by families to baptize babies he's delivered, and he's officiated at the wedding of a person he delivered as a baby.
The maternity clinic where Fr. Malnar still works began in the 1950s, led by the Family Medicine Spokane residency program. In 1985, Sacred Heart took on the clinic's operations. Fr. Malnar said the hospital delivers 140 to 170 babies annually whose mothers received prenatal care at the clinic. Prenatal care is provided by family practice and obstetrical residents and faculty doctors. The clinic is one floor below the hospital's labor and delivery unit.
Rachel Bos, a 30-year-old legal assistant and mother of four children, was a pregnant teenager when she thumbed through the phone book to find a doctor and came across Fr. Malnar's name. She said Dr. Malnar's natural ease helped calm her, and led to a patient and doctor relationship that continues. She said, "He didn't make the practice just about medicine." On a recent visit, she told Fr. Malnar that her fiancé was getting up at night with their 6-week-old daughter, Kenley. Fr. Malnar took Bos to the hospital gift shop, told her to pick out a bouquet for her fiancé, and suggested she not tell her fiancé that the doctor picked up the tab for the blooms. Bos said she did wind up telling her fiancé of Fr. Malnar's generosity. She considers the clinic's renaming a fitting honor for Fr. Malnar: "No one deserves it more than him."
Fr. Malnar knew as a youth in Fairbanks, Alaska, that he had a calling to become a priest. He attended the former St. Thomas Seminary in Denver, and while completing a pastoral education rotation in psychiatry in Kansas in 1971 when he was a deacon, his director suggested he consider a future in medicine. When he found support for this goal from diocesan leadership in Helena, Mont., he attended a premed program at Carroll College in Montana and then enrolled in medical school at the University of Washington in Seattle.
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