Dr. Days, pictured with his wife Angella, currently works with Consilium at a community health system in South Carolina.
The Pursuit of Medicine as a Roadmap Through Life
Though he speaks with an air of humility that initially belies his—quite considerable—accomplishments, Jacques Days could talk all day about his love for medicine and the people he has the opportunity to serve.
“My career is not just about the medicine: it’s about the connection, about making a difference in people’s lives. The work I get to do with Consilium is completely consistent with my vision for medicine.”
“I actually made the decision to go into family medicine specifically at a young age, probably in the 9th or 10th grade,” Days said. “Although when I announced this to my mother, she was not at all astonished: apparently, I first mentioned becoming a doctor at the age of four, so this was not big news to her.”
Dr. Days is originally from Mount Vernon, Georgia, which boasted a population of fewer than 2,000 people during Days’ childhood. He says that much of his determination to pursue family medicine stemmed from firsthand knowledge of how a community can be affected by inadequate access to medical care.
“The importance of having a sufficient number of physicians to provide care, especially in generally underserved communities, was very salient to me as a child,” Days said. “When you only have one doctor to serve the needs of your whole community—especially when he or she isn’t there but a few days of the week, as was the case in my hometown—there is a real need for someone to fill that gap.”
Ever the pragmatist even as a teenager, Days wanted to ensure he fully understood what he was “getting himself into” before embarking on the winding road that comprises the journey to physicianhood. He spent the summers after his junior and senior years of high school at the Medical College of Georgia, where he completed biomedical science courses and labs, participated in scholarly research, and shadowed physicians. These experiences further solidified the notion that the medical field was exactly where he was meant to be.
Dr. Days completed his undergraduate education at Morris Brown College in Atlanta—to which he received a full-ride scholarship—during which time he also participated in scientific research programs at Emory University and Brown University. Bringing his medical education to that point full circle, Days then enrolled in medical school at the Medical College of Georgia.
Combining a Passion for Medicine with a Dedication to Faith
Another certainty throughout Days’ life is his steadfast belief in a higher power, which ultimately led to his match with the In His Image Family Medicine Residency program, a Christian family medicine residency based in Oklahoma. For him, the clincher was the focus on training resident physicians in a variety of medical settings in order to better serve—and thus minister to—medically underserved populations.
“My residency program really prepared me to practice any kind of medicine anywhere in the world,” Days said. “The idea was that if we ever felt called to foreign medical missions, then we could use our training anywhere. We really experienced the full gamut of family medicine, from obstetrics to chronic, inpatient, emergency, and intensive care.”
Upon his entry into the program, however, Dr. Days recalls feeling some trepidation surrounding obstetrical care. As fate would have it, he was assigned on-call duties his first week in the program, which meant he was responsible for the emergency room and inpatient services as well as the obstetrical unit. He was called in that week for an OB case, a patient the nurse said would be there a long while before delivering. Dr. Days, under the assumption he would only need to check in and provide a status update and reassurance, went to see the expectant (and first-time) mother.
“I was in for quite a shock,” Days said. “I was told that the woman was only dilated to one centimeter, but I immediately discovered that we were looking at more like TEN centimeters. I didn’t have time to call for assistance—or even to gown up!—before essentially catching that baby. But after that moment, you could not tear me away from the obstetrical ward: I absolutely fell in love with it.”
Dr. Days cites the opportunity to pray with expectant parents before delivery as a powerful early merging of his faith and medical expertise. Despite his passion for obstetrics, however, Dr. Days ultimately joined a private practice that did not provide OB services.
“They did invite me to advocate for the inclusion of obstetrical care, but I decided to get acclimated and build some rapport before pressing for such big changes,” Days said. “But—as any physician can testify—if you don’t push for something right out the gate, it’s unlikely to happen down the road. I never did go back to delivering babies.”
Juggling a Full Plate As Thy Cup Runneth Over
When Dr. Days started in private practice in the late ‘90s, he was often there very late in the evening finishing paperwork. At the time, he was handling inpatient on-call duties (this was prior to the rise of hospitalists) in addition to his responsibilities as vice president of family medicine at a nearby hospital. He estimates that at that time, he was consistently dedicating a solid 80 hours per week to work.
Despite his heavy workload, Dr. Days was not one to neglect any pursuit which he believed central to his mission. Alongside his work as a physician, he prepared to answer the call to ministry by completing the five-year pre-ordination training program for the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) church, which he completed in 2006. Concurrently, he was working in a community health center as well as taking on occasional locum tenens opportunities on weekends.
In early 2007, Dr. Days decided it was time to take a sabbatical from medicine. Not a full sabbatical, as he clarifies, but it was certainly “time to take a breath.” Though he initially started working locum tenens in 2002 to fill income gaps while searching for a new position, during his sabbatical Dr. Days transitioned to working locum tenens exclusively while he decided upon his next move.
“Hands down, the hardest part about private practice is the ongoing time constraint of excessive paperwork and administrative oversight,” Days said. “The difference with locums is that I choose my own schedule and most of my time is truly spent with patients: I just see my patients, complete necessary paperwork, and go right home at 5 p.m.”
In late 2007, in the midst of his semi-hiatus from medicine, Dr. Days was called to pastor Adams Chapel AME Church in Rock Hill, South Carolina. In a nod to the Apostle Paul, who used his tent-making skills to support himself as he traveled for ministry, Dr. Days refers to locum tenens as his “own personal tent-making.”
Upon accepting the pastorship, Dr. Days returned to the community health center and—with the additional income from working locums—was able to pastor the church without requiring a salary the first two years, and then only a small portion afterwards. In turn, the well-respected work his church performed in the community opened another service-related door: in January of 2016, Dr. Days also began serving as president of the Rock Hill chapter of the NAACP.
“If there is anything I could say that each of my pursuits has in common, it would be a shared commitment to service,” Days said. “What my career journey really demonstrates, from my perspective, is that God is sovereign over all areas of our lives. He has a plan, and everything is connected.”
Self-Care and Service to Others: Finding the Right Balance
In early 2017, Dr. Days decided it was time to start paring down his schedule altogether. He stepped down as pastor after ten years of dedicated service and also declined to run for another term as NAACP president. At present, he even manages to avoid his previously characteristic 80-hour work weeks, a change made possible in large part by working locum tenens.
“I’m only 48, so I’m certainly not old, but I AM starting to feel my age,” Days laughed. “It’s definitely time for me to slow down a bit.”
Despite a more “human” number of obligations, Dr. Days remains a consistent presence in several community health clinics throughout South Carolina. For him, working in community health harkens back to his childhood impetus to study medicine, and Consilium—being a faith-based company with its own commitment to servant leadership—has proven to be the right partner in that endeavor.
“From everything I have experienced, I can say that Consilium falls in line with my own vision for medicine, and they have placed me in clinics where I am able to meet genuine needs in local communities,” Days said. “It is a blessing to work with Consilium in a community health setting—both of which align with my passion for service to others—and know that I am doing something truly beneficial for other people.”
The sheer scope of the service Dr. Days has provided during his lifetime—and the commitment and sacrifices undoubtedly required—certainly begs the question: why (and furthermore, how)?
“Why do I do what I do…,” Days mused. “Really, it boils down to the fact that God has been good to me. My hope is that when I am able to help others, they understand that that service is due to a good and gracious God. If it were just about medicine or the income, I would have quit a long, long time ago. But when I go to work every day, I get to serve people, to connect with them, and that’s really what has made all the difference.”
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