At the CDC and Emory, Christians Live Out Dual Callings During the Pandemic

COVID-19 fatigue has strengthened and challenged the faith of public health and hospital workers in Atlanta.

Infectious disease physician Nathaniel Smith took on two new roles during the pandemic: acting director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Center for Global Health and interim priest of his Anglican church plant.

“My interest in faith and medicine come from the same place: the desire to share Christ’s love in practical, tangible ways,” said Smith, a former medical missionary. “They both flow out of my identity in Christ.”

In his role at the CDC, Smith helps his team identify emerging public health threats in more than 60 countries, run treatment programs for diseases ranging from HIV to measles, and support COVID-19 monitoring and vaccination efforts worldwide.

But the isolation of the pandemic urged him toward greater involvement in his local church. He was ordained as an Anglican priest in 2020 and stepped in as interim priest of Atlanta’s Trinity Northside Parish in 2021.

Smith’s CDC office is situated along the Clifton Corridor in Atlanta, a major hub of education, research, and health care that also houses Emory University and multiple hospitals. And Smith is one of many Atlanta-area Christians working there who have lived out a dual calling during the pandemic, seeking to reduce illness through their clinical knowledge and to proclaim Christ in word and deed.

That task started with a swell of public gratitude at the beginning of the pandemic in 2020 but has grown more difficult over time as public perception toward medical recommendations has shifted. And this provides a central challenge for Christians working in public health and medicine at this stage of the pandemic—how to persevere in their faith while wrestling with their limits and trusting …

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