Alumni Profile: Todd Fleming ’12
Medical school and year: Duke University School of Medicine, 2021
Current city and job: Norfolk, VA | Ophthalmology Resident at Eastern Virginia Medical School
What first interested you in medicine? How did you find your calling?
I was drawn to serving people with physical needs and ailments. I was also particularly compelled by the godliness displayed by the physicians I had met before choosing this path. I knew medical school and the profession of medicine was difficult, but I was inspired by how the process refined Christian physicians into a deeper dependence and faith in God (Psalm 66: 10-12). I wanted that. The decision to pursue ophthalmology came later, but was intrinsically motivated by my love for visual art and one of my favorite miracles of the new testament from Mark 10:46-52 - Jesus’ healing of Bartimaeus.
What has your career path looked like since graduating from Covenant?
I majored in art, and when graduating from Covenant I had little direction but an abundance of blind confidence. My first job was with my wife (Jessie Jakes ’12). We were interns at Ridge Haven Camp and Conference Center working in hospitality and doing anything and everything needed to help run the camp. Over the course of our five years working at Ridge Haven, I met physicians who frequented the camp with their families. They were some of the most gracious and hard-working people I had ever met. In many ways, I did not know my calling yet, but I knew I wanted to serve others and that I wanted to become a man of godly character.
Additionally, I had a growing thirst to go back to school. A “pros and cons list” might have talked me out of it, but I had a gut feeling health care was calling me, and I had faith that God had put it on my heart. These last four years, I have been learning the foundations of medicine at Duke University School of Medicine, and as of recently, I matched into residency training for ophthalmology in Norfolk, VA at Eastern Virginia Medical School. I feel incredibly blessed to be learning a trade that will give me a platform to share the gospel with so many people.
Looking back now, how did Covenant prepare you for your career?
First, Covenant was invaluable in shaping my priorities. Christ is all that matters. Once I rested contently in that truth, I was free to do anything. I knew even if I failed, that God would use it for His glory if I committed my way to Him (Psalm 37: 3-9). It is so easy to walk away from that simple truth, and I was incredibly vulnerable to do so as a 18-21 year old. However, the godly people surrounding me at Covenant pushed me toward the truth despite my sin. You cannot put a dollar sign on that.
Second, Covenant developed in me the versatile skill of learning. I took a lot of core classes that I thought were pointless at the time, but now I realize that the exposure was instilling in me academic confidence and creative thinking. As an art major I was not afraid to jump into the hard sciences needed for medical school. I had already brushed shoulders with the material before, and I knew I could apply learning principles to any subject matter.
What would you say to current students who are considering a career in any field of medicine?
Distill your decision down to your purest motivations. If what remains is the security of a comfortable paycheck, the recognition of having letters after your name, or pleasing the expectations of parents, then I would say get out while you still can. These priorities will destroy you and hurt the patients you serve. However, if the motivations that remain are the joy of learning, serving the suffering, and the advancement of Christ’s kingdom, then I would say PLEASE go into medicine. The profession needs you.
In what ways does your faith inform your career? What does it mean to be a Christian doctor?
My career is just starting, so I suppose I am more qualified to talk about how my faith informs me as a trainee. In that respect, I have abided by two principles. The first comes from Colossians 3:23-24 that I learned from working in facilities cleaning toilets at Covenant. Everything that we do, we do unto the Father and not unto man. Practically speaking, this means that my studies, my training, and the interactions I have with patients are all acts of worship and a living offering to God. This perspective gives me joyful motivation in all pursuits.
The second principle comes from Matthew 5:44 where Christ expounds upon the law to love our neighbors and states that we are to love our enemies. I have encountered patients, doctors, and peers who have treated me with contempt or explicitly offended me. When I remember that I was an enemy to God when Christ died and was resurrected, I am prone to forgiveness, not retribution. I believe that my greatest ministry in the hospital as a trainee has been how I treated those who wronged me.
Do you have an encouraging story from your medical experience that you’d like to share?
I have a simple story to share that deeply impacted my perspective of health care. A middle-aged mother of three children came in for chronic dry eyes. Even in the world of ophthalmology, this is not an exciting chief complaint. However, her dry eye symptoms had begun five years prior, and she had neglected the trivial issue because she was caring for her dying mother. We fitted her for custom scleral contacts that hydrate the cornea. Immediately, she noticed significant improvement in her vision, and within moments she leaned forward and wept into my shoulder. For years, she had not seen her children clearly, and she had been unable to see her mother’s face when she passed away. In the midst of that routine visit, the weight of her life burdens were being processed, and restored visual acuity had given her newfound hope. I learned to never underestimate the impact that simple service and kindness can have on the people we serve.
What are some fond memories or a favorite story from your time at Covenant?
Playing night games at Scotland Yard will always be my favorite memories from Covenant. Honorable mentions include stealing away to Sunset Rock in the evening, watching the hang gliders after church on Sundays, Dr. Kapic’s Christology course, 2am trips to City Café, and discovering the secret room in the chapel above the lockers on the basement floor.
Undergraduate Departments, Majors, Minors, Certificates, Concentrations, and Programs
- Arts Administration
- Environmental Stewardship & Sustainability
- Journalism and Society
- Medical Ethics Consultation
- Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL)
- Art, 2-D Concentration
- Art, 3-D Concentration
- Art, Art History Concentration
- Art, Graphic Design Concentration
- Art, Photography Concentration
- Art minor
- Art History minor
- Biblical & Theological Studies
- Biblical & Theological Studies, Missions Concentration
- Biblical & Theological Studies minor
- Biblical Languages minor
- History of Christianity minor
- Missions minor
- Youth Ministry minor
- Biology, Biomedical Concentration
- Biology, Environmental Concentration
- Biology, General
- Biology, Health Professions Concentration
- Biology minor
- Business, Accounting Concentration
- Business, Finance Concentration
- Business, Marketing Concentration
- Sport Management
- Business minor
- Sport Management minor
- Chemistry, Biochemistry Concentration
- Chemistry, General
- Biochemistry minor
- Chemistry minor
- Computer Science
- Computer Science minor
- Community Development
- Community Development minor
- Economics minor
- Education Studies
- Elementary Education (P-5)
- Secondary Education Certifications through MAT program
- Education minor
- Natural Science, Pre-Engineering Studies Concentration
- English, Writing Concentration
- English minor
- Writing minor
- Coaching minor
- History, Art History Concentration
- Political Science
- International Studies
- History minor
- Political Science minor
- Interdisciplinary Studies with Concentrations
- Mathematics minor
- Music, Church Music Concentration
- Music, Creative Studies Concentration
- Music, General Music Concentration
- Music, Instrumental Performance Concentration
- Music, Music Education (Pre-MAT) Concentration
- Music, Organ Performance Concentration
- Music, Piano Pedagogy Concentration
- Music, Piano Performance Concentration
- Music, Vocal Performance Concentration
- Music minor
- Philosophy minor
- Physics minor
- Pre-Law Studies
- Pre-Medical Studies
- Pre-Nursing Studies
- Pre-Physical Therapy Studies
- Psychology minor
- Sociology, Family Studies & Social Work Concentration
- Sociology minor
- Theatre minor
- French minor
- Spanish minor