History of MCO
A History of MCO Philadelphia
During the years of 1989-1991 the Medical College of Georgia experienced a spiritual revival. Over a three year span a significant percentage of medical students came to Christ through the efforts of Bill Pearson and Clark Newton in partnership with First Presbyterian Church Augusta. This explosion of the Holy Spirit gave birth to what they called Medical Campus Outreach (MCO). MCO continues in strength in Georgia to this day.
In 1992 Bill was in Philadelphia and toured Esperanza Health Center (EHC). Detecting an opportunity, he asked if EHC could use 20 or so medical students for a summer project. EHC agreed. At that time measles was spreading rapidly through Philadelphia despite the availability of an effective vaccine. Portions of Philadelphia’s population (concentrated in North Philadelphia) were not receiving the vaccine. EHC and the MCO Georgia team responded by sending a team of healthcare students and professionals door to door offering free vaccines. They called this initiative The Summer Medical Institute (SMI). The Summer Medical Institute was so successful in discipling students and providing medical and spiritual care to the poor that MCO Georgia continued sending teams to Philadelphia every year. Soon multiple SMIs were being held each summer throughout the United States and overseas, all based on the Philadelphia model.
In 1995 and 1996, several families and individuals moved from Georgia to Philadelphia to begin a chapter of MCO in Philadelphia (MCO Philly). Other people also began MCO chapters in other cities in the United States. At that time the MCO team approached Tenth Presbyterian Church (Tenth) requesting that Tenth provide spiritual oversight. For the next 10 years MCO flourished under the leadership of Directors Dr. Rees Oliver and Scott Moreau, along with the staff team. SMI continued in Philadelphia until 2001 when it moved to Texas and partnered with Valley Baptist Health Center; the Philadelphia team continued to run it. Dr. Patrick Pulliam, MCO volunteer, wrote the Health Care Bible study which examines medicine from a biblical perspective; this study is still in use today.
Since that time MCO has experienced ups and downs but has maintained a strong presence on the numerous healthcare campuses around Philadelphia. They have continued to disciple healthcare students and professionals.
In 2009 the MCO Philly board decided to make some significant changes that required MCO Philly to retool. Without a Director at that time, the board took it upon themselves to bring new freshness to the ministry; the board also saw fit to more closely align themselves with Tenth. Despite Tenth’s inability to fully fund the organization, Tenth was delighted to support MCO and agreed to further integrate MCO into the church’s vision to be the church beyond church walls.
At that time, SMI Texas was handed off to Valley Baptist Residency. In the summer of 2010 SMI Philadelphia was re-launched. Since then, SMI Philadelphia has continued to grow in size and impact. In addition, MCO Philly also began hosting luncheons at Tenth for all healthcare students and professionals to aid in the development of community and training; CityWide evening events on local campuses were soon added. MCO Philly has also developed a popular mentoring program, a healthcare library, an internship, a website with many resources (mcophilly.org), two community living houses, and currently leads 4-5 medical and evangelistic outreaches to the city of Philadelphia each year. These new initiatives began under the leadership of Dr. Karen Fritz, board Chairperson.
One of the board members who assisted in all of these new projects was Steve Munz. Steve joined the board in 2007 and worked faithfully both with students and behind the scenes. In the fall of 2013 Steve resigned from the board and stepped into the role of Director of MCO Philly for the next 18 months. Dr. Laura Layer, also of Esperanza Health Center, took on the Director role in the fall of 2016.
Over time, Tenth Church found it increasingly challenging to support MCO/SMI, particularly in the area of liability insurance with regard to MCO/SMI outreach activities. Therefore, in the spring of 2020, the Session of Tenth Church asked MCO to consider other partnerships that could better support its mission and ministry. After a long and prayerful search, MCO was thrilled to announce that they will be joining Christian Community Health Fellowship (CCHF) effective March 2022. CCHF, whose national office is in Memphis, TN, is a networking and mentoring organization that encourages and equips clinics, medical professionals, and students to spread the gospel through healthcare among the poor. Esperanza Health Center here in Philadelphia has been a CCHF member clinic for decades and already is a partner to MCO in the implementation of SMI. The Session of Tenth Church values the unique and far-reaching ministry of MCO/SMI and anticipates a long and fruitful relationship with MCO as a partner organization in the years ahead. MCO is grateful to Tenth Church for years of guidance and support and look forward to this new chapter of partnership in the gospel.
Ultimately, MCO’s history is a history of the Holy Spirit at work. He has initiated, sustained, and grown this ministry. He has raised up leaders who heard Jesus’ call in Matthew 28:18-20 and kept that call central. Through the ministry of MCO Philly, dozens of medical students have come to know Christ and hundreds have been discipled or mentored. Over 10 families from MCO Philly are now serving full-time overseas. In addition, MCO Philly alumni serve on staff at several urban Christian health clinics around the country (Esperanza, East Liberty in Pittsburgh, Siloam in Nashville) as well as in academic positions throughout the country. Many also serve as leaders and elders in their churches.
By joining with CCHF, MCO gets the joy of continuing mentoring, discipling, and encouraging healthcare students and professionals to follow Jesus. The day-to-day work in Philadelphia remains unchanged. MCO will continue to visit campuses and host events and prayer meetings. The changes will be mostly administrative.
SMI will also only have administrative changes. The program is being finalized and will remain much the same as it has in recent years – with the hope that the pandemic restrictions of the last two summers (2020-21) might ease some and a more normal SMI program can resume. Over time, the strengthened relationship with Esperanza should allow for SMI to continue to grow. There are even hopes of reproducing it through other CCHF affiliated clinics throughout the country.
Will you join with MCO Philly as they “proclaim Christ and make disciples on Philadelphia’s health care campuses”?