On Dignity: a Reflection as a Physician to the Prison Population

In the multitude of my thoughts within me Thy comforts delight my soul. Psalm 94:19

I currently work as a physician at a prison. This is actually my second go-round at this: in the past, I got burnt out and ended up quitting. After quitting, I got another job right away, but, then, after a year, I felt a call to reapply for my old job at the prison. Why? Only God knows. 

The rehiring process turned out to be rather easy, which was curious: it’s usually a very tedious process to apply - one needs to be interviewed by several people, get state clearance and then be credentialed. This is when I realized that God must have guided me to be where I am supposed to be.

But just because the rehiring process was surprisingly easy, taking care of the prison population  remains very much a challenge. Some days, it feels very fulfilling, but some days it is so mind-boggling, unrewarding and thankless to the point that it ruins my whole day, and makes me feel like giving up.

Then, on a recent Sunday morning, I attended Sunday morning service at St. Matthew’s and was touched and moved by the sermon given by our priest, The Rev. Colin Mathewson. The sermon is about the greatest commandment, and loving your neighbor as yourself. Fr. Colin, who also serves at St. Luke’s, North Park, talked about their other church project: they opened a place where the homeless population can take showers. The first homeless person who availed of their shower said he felt “human” after months of not having a place to get a decent wash -- similar to having his dignity back. Fr. Colin mentioned giving back a person’s dignity is fulfilling one of our duties as Christians. 

Dr. Saidro from St. Matthew's, National City

This brought my thoughts back to my “thankless” job. Lots of prisoners or inmates have already lost their dignity. Some of them feel they’re at their lowest and feel so demeaned just being where they are. I remembered several experiences after a visit or administering care, where I would get a thank you or a compliment: an inmate would thank me simply for talking to him and treating him like a human being, sharing that it meant a lot for him and he was thankful for the service. I’ve always been skeptical, thinking, “yeah right, he’s just pulling my leg.” 

But now after listening to Fr. Colin’s sermon, I realized some of those compliments may be sincere considering their circumstances. And this makes me realize that even the most miniscule act - an action as basic as having a conversation with someone, or treating someone with the most basic humanity - can be something Christlike. 

This sermon message inspires me to continue serving these marginalized groups. It may not be the easiest or most genteel job but now I see the reward just by being an instrument of God to serve these people and help them restore their dignity in my own simple way. They may be offenders but, more importantly they are human beings, and God’s children, and deserve to be treated as such! In the words of Mother Theresa, “Kind words can be short and easy to speak, but their echoes are truly endless.”


About the Author

A farmer's daughter, Dr. Luviminda Saidro was born and raised in a small barrio in Ifugao, Philippines. She became a physician through scholarships (Government and Missionary Scholarships). After graduation, she served with the Catholic Missionaries as a vicariate physician in Benguet and Ifugao then had a short stint working at Ifugao Provincial Hospital in the Philippines before moving to the USA to join her husband. She hurdled through the tedious US Medical Licensure Examinations and had Residency Training in Family Medicine. She currently works with the California Dept of Corrections. Married to an Episcopalian, she eventually became one herself. Dr. Saidro also finds joy in spending time with her wonderful friends and family, including her one and only son, who is also pursuing a career in nursing.