Paul C. Francel, M.D., Ph.D., M.Div.
Below are some of my thoughts on the topic of Dr. Paul Francel leaving his very successful medical practice and entering the ministry. It was not as straight forward as you might think.
I will start in 2006. You may remember, out of great compassion, Dr. Francel provided surgery free of charge for a Russia boy that had a terrible brainstem tumor. Even though Dr. Francel was found to have done nothing wrong in the Russian boy's case by an outside peer review (the tumor was successfully removed), the case was very highly publicized, usually negatively, since the boy got ill after the surgery and succumbed to meningitis and died. His father and the media kept the story going.
I was concerned at the time that this case might open an ugly can of worms causing some people to try to jump on the gravy train and sue to get money out of Dr. Francel for other cases while money might be available, whether it was the right thing to do or not or even a valid claim, driven by greed and opportunity. I believe this did happen. Click below on the purple box if you want to read my thoughts and research on the Russian Boy's case.
Prior to the Russian boy's case, Dr. Francel had a number of very favorable stories on TV about various cases, including my husband's case which was on national and international television in 2000 and later. Arnold Allen's story on TV was based on my story, "Happy Anniversary." For a much more detailed description of my husband's brain tumor history go here to "You Have a Brain Tumor." My website Brainwavz has many great stories about Dr. Francel and a number of other inspirational stories.
As time went on, after the Russian boy's case, a troublesome trend was developing. During this period Dr. Francel was still very popular and he was operating on more patients than some neurosurgery department physicians all together. He began to think that several doctors at another hospital were particularly unhappy with his success and might have been trying to derail his career. He may have been right.
My husband and I and also another patient of Dr. Francel's heard doctors from that hospital make negative remarks about him (Dr. Francel). I told Dr. Francel about how a doctor in that group (the doctor that did my husband's first brain surgery) lied to my husband and me about him (Dr. Francel). I know he was shocked and hurt about it. He told me that he felt the problem might have been due to his department head at the time and the department head at the other doctor's group not being on very good terms with each other then. Then the other patient, who I have known very well for years, told me the doctor she talked to (another doctor in the other group) said the doctor talked to her in an unprofessional, negative way about Dr. Francel and even acted jealous of him.
Please click here to read the details of what my husband, and I indirectly, endured by the doctor from that other group that botched my husband's first brain surgery. The discussion is mostly a shocking comparison between the original doctor and Dr. Francel, but does include the part about the doctor lying to us. If you just want to read the part about what the other doctor did, go to the font (print) in the magenta color like in this paragraph.
Continuing on, a number of malpractice cases against Dr. Francel were surfacing. Some of the same attorneys' names kept popping up in a number of the lawsuits too. The situation was suspicious. It is just plain logic, that if Dr. Francel's practice was decreased or destroyed, other doctors would benefit from it. They would probably get any previous and possibly future patients that would have gone to Dr. Francel. I know Dr. Francel is a brilliant man and plenty capable of analyzing complex situations. So, when he told me about his suspicions, I became suspicious too. It was very puzzling.
I know some people that were aware something unusual was going on with those unexpected malpractice lawsuits. Things just didn't add up. Patients and friends of Dr. Francel knew of his outstanding surgical skills, excellent work ethic, and high moral character so they knew the situation couldn't possibly be due to him performing less than ideal work--as in being careless and/or sloppy. That just wasn't Dr. Francel. Excelling is what he has always done. He graduated Magna cum Laude from Harvard in 3 years with his B.S. Degree. He chose to get his Ph.D. along with his Medical Degree which took 7 years. He could have skipped the Ph.D. After finishing his residency, he decided to train another year in pediatric neurosurgery. He didn't have to do that. He even spent another year in England working and learning more. He trained with some of the best doctors in the country and the world. He is still excelling like that today. He has never taken the easy path. I'm sure he never will. As another example, he recently graduated from seminary in 2 years rather than the 3 or 4 it takes others. He is definitely not losing his mental abilities.
The paragraphs above are all I can share on that subject because it is all I know about it. It is a theory, which is compelling to consider.
It should be noted that Dr. Francel was not found guilty of any malpractice in the courts despite the lawsuits. He never even went to court with any of them. It is unfortunate that anyone can sue for malpractice in Oklahoma no matter how trivial or untrue, thus greatly harming the physician's reputation, often on no basis at all. Speaking of trivial, here is one good example. A patient had surgery by Dr. Francel. He was told to carefully keep the incision cleaned to prevent infection. He didn't, got an infection in the incision, and he sued!
Here is another case I can relate that was really frustrating to me personally. A lady contacted me through my website about her little boy. Dr. Francel had operated on him and removed a brainstem tumor. Brainstem tumors are notoriously difficult to remove since they are so hard to get to. Dr. Francel told the family, if he operated, the boy could be impaired afterwards. So they knew that. They begged for the surgery anyway. It was his only chance for life. I would have begged for the surgery too if it was my family member. I certainly don't blame them for that.
As feared, the boy did have some impairments afterwards, but he was alive, and the tumor was gone. But the family sued because the boy was impaired some. That is where I would have differed from the family. I would have thanked Dr. Francel for saving my family member's life, getting the tumor out, and for doing his best. With the boy's family, it all seems so wrong to me, after they begged for the surgery knowing all the facts. They signed the consent form with all the warnings of things that could go wrong. It is sad for the family, but not fair to Dr. Francel. He was and is a man of great compassion. He did his best to help the boy and his family. A lawsuit is not a good thank you, if you ask me. That is one of the many difficulties affecting doctors now.
Dr. Francel was not found guilty of anything at the Medical Board even though his case was thoroughly studied because of the lawsuits. Also, the Board of Neurosurgeons found him in good standing after all that.
Finally, the stress of working 80 hours a week and the other worries about the lawsuits became too much. After much prayer, reflection, and heartbreak, Dr. Francel did the unthinkable. He closed his practice in December of 2008 and then voluntarily gave up his medical license in 2010. The great stress of the situation was harming his physical and mental health and was very difficult on his family. It was a devastating experience after working so hard in his field and training so extensively for so many years for it. He didn't hang it up lightly. I talked to him quite a bit about the situation at the time so I was informed about the situation.
Regarding malpractice lawsuits in general, I can't help noticing how much our society has changed over the years. We are now a "let's sue for everything" society. We are bombarded by it in all the attorney's ads on television day after day. If a person has a baby or surgery they must be perfect or there is bound to be a lawsuit. Lawsuits are so prevalent these days that they are driving many doctors out of business because of the lawsuits and/or the cost of malpractice insurance. Many of the lawsuits are trivial cases. This is particularly a tough problem in Oklahoma. I believe we need stronger tort reform.
As time went by, it became more and more apparent to Dr. Francel the Lord was calling him into the ministry. He was actually aware of the call for years, but he tried to kind of suppress it for awhile, especially when he was working as a doctor. As a child he even considered being a priest. He was raised a Catholic and later joined the Lutheran church. He had a lot more time to think and pray about it when he wasn't working 80 hours a week. I told him and he realized that God could have put a stop to all the bad things that happened to him and his family. But we knew in our hearts that God clearly wanted him to do something else with his life, to minister more fully to people's souls not just their bodies which are here on earth for such a short time. Our souls are for eternity. So which is more important, to save a person's physical life or to help a person find salvation for his or her soul? If we don't know the answer to that question now, I know we will find the answer when we get to heaven. I believe it is much more important for a person's soul to be saved than their body to be saved. However, in Dr. Francel's careers, he has been able to do both, which is rather unique in our world. I believe him to be a particularly blessed person.
Looking back, I know Dr. Francel feels his medical career was probably damaged by some people of ill will. I want my readers to know that the stories you heard on TV or in the newspapers were not the whole story and things were not exactly as portrayed. I was so disheartened viewing and reading some of the stories in the media. It seemed like one minute they were praising him to the highest heavens for his miraculous work and the next thing we all knew they were doing just the opposite. From what I have heard and know, I believe some sinister things were going on that helped to bring a very good man down for awhile. All the patients and friends I talked to were devastated by the events that transpired when he gave up his medical practice.
We all know that lives are being lost since Dr. Francel isn't out there operating saving and improving lives. We keep wondering how many Arnold's, or Rachael's, or Linda's, or Jennifer's or Billy's and others are struggling or dying without Dr. Francel's surgical help? That is the tragic part of the story. We can only hope that some extremely skilled surgeons will be filling the void.
I believe a lesser person could have been completely broken by the events of the last several years that Dr. Francel went through. We are all aware of those who turned to drugs, alcohol, or even suicide when faced with such a trying, challenging situation. The fact that he survived and overcame so well is a great tribute to the character of my good friend Dr. Paul Francel and the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. I realize now this was more than an example of one door closing, and the Lord opening another. He was being called into the ministry for a long time. Through all those difficult times God was supporting him and directing him to his intended destination and second calling in life, the ministry. That is the inspiring part of the story.
Going into the ministry was really an extension of his Christian witness and compassion exhibited in his medical practice. Looking back over the last 18 years I have known Dr. Francel, I feel he was already working as an unofficial minister when he was working as a doctor, at least to me and my family and also many of his patients.
My first clue was when my husband and I first went into his office and sat down at his desk. We were sizing him up and looking for any signs of encouragement for my husband's condition that had been called so far an "inoperable and terminal" brain tumor. As my eyes scanned over his desk, they locked into one item. On the corner of his desk directly in front of me was a Bible. That spoke volumes to me. I knew instantly he was a Christian and one that liked to witness and share his faith. That proved to be so true.
Many patients told me about his kindness and support and even going in the chapel to pray with them when they asked. It was clear he was going way past what was expected of a doctor normally. It came through in some of the memorable phrases he used when talking that I remember and love so well like after a surgery he would say "God did most of it" or "I am His Hands." He would give God the glory instead of taking the praise for himself. Dr. Francel and I have had many conversations over the years and I realized what a great Christian man he was and is. He was a great witness then and now. Truly, no person has blessed or inspired me more in the faith than Dr. Francel.
I should add here, if you haven't read about it on this website yet, my husband, Arnold Allen, is still tumor free 18 years later thanks to Dr. Francel's brilliant surgery.
As of August 24, 2012 Dr. Francel graduated from seminary in two years by taking a compact schedule and has been working, preaching, and doing other activities in his church as Assistant Minister to Pastor Mark Borseth at Resurrection Lutheran Church in Yukon, OK. He has also written an historical book which may be made into a movie based on his parents' incredible escape from communism in Czechoslovakia years ago. He is also works as President, Oklahoma Czech Sokol and Trustee at Czech Hall. Dr. Francel is Co-Director of The Piedmont Park Project. It was a huge undertaking, which was just recently completed. I pray God will greatly bless Dr. Francel, his family, and his work in the ministry of our Lord and in every other endeavor.
August 24, 2012 graduation ceremony
August 24, 2012 graduation ceremony
Story and Website by
Inspirational Website and information about Dr. Paul Francel
Also, information about a number of brain related medical conditions
To see the video based on my story Happy Anniversary which was on national and international TV click on the box.
My husband and I are in the video along with a friend and Dr. Francel. It was shown on Beyond Chance, Lifetime Television.
Video courtesy of Lifetime Television