Doctor makes unconventional career decision
by Kara Hansen
OVERLAND PARK — It was a familiar story.
“I went only because my wife signed me up for it,” admitted Dr. Bruce Snider.
But the retreat held at Church of the Ascension in Overland Park four years ago was anything but familiar. “The retreat was absolutely life changing,” said the obstetrician. “At the time, I was a Catholic who went to Mass on Sundays, but that was about it.
“I went home after that weekend and made the decision to stop performing sterilizations in my practice immediately.”
The retreat was part of the parish renewal program Christ Renews His Parish (CRHP) held at the Church of the Ascension. As part of the weekend, Snider heard a fellow Catholic share his moving testimony about his vasectomy reversal. The peace and joy the reversal brought to that man’s marriage and faith made a deep impact on Snider.
Snider’s wife Mona said she was not completely surprised by her husband’s reaction and decision to integrate his Catholic faith more fully into his professional life.
“I had gone through a CRHP weekend before and it made such an impact on me that I really hoped and thought it might have a similar impact on him,” she said.
But that decision to stop performing sterilizations in his practice was simply a first step in a larger journey, Snider soon realized. His wife soon began to see significant shifts in his priorities, as well as a deepening relationship with God.
“I saw Bruce’s heart was more open to the way God was leading him through his prayer life, as more of a spiritual leader in our family, making our family a bigger priority over work, and being more open to different opportunities in our parish,” said Mona.
As part of the CRHP program, Snider also began to grow closer to other Catholic men who encouraged him in his faith and who were also working at better integrating their faith and work lives.
“We spend so much of our time in the workplace that it makes sense to move our faith past our church and immediate family to include the rest of our lives,” said Snider.
Subsequent programs Snider attended on the sanctity of life and the theology of the body deepened his desire to bring the principles of his professional practice more completely in line with those of his faith.
So his next step was to stop prescribing artificial contraceptives to his patients.
“I became increasingly uncomfortable prescribing birth control pills when that clearly doesn’t fit with our Catholic beliefs,” he said.
As an OB/GYN in private practice for almost 20 years, Snider estimates that some 80 percent of his patients were on some form of birth control, which made his decision to stop prescribing it something of a leap of faith.
To his knowledge, Snider said he was the only OB/GYN practicing in the state of Kansas who would not prescribe contraceptives.
“It’s definitely a practice risk, wondering if I will be able to keep enough patients to continue. But I’ve decided this is what I need to do and I’m not going to worry about it,” he said.
With three children at home — Ben, 14, Sophie, 12, and Gracie, 10 — Mona admits to some concern as to how this decision will impact their family’s livelihood.
“But that’s really where faith and trust step in,” she said. “We feel a lot of peace and trust about this decision.
It’s not that it won’t be hard, or that there won’t be obstacles along the way, or that we won’t encounter judgment from others.
“It’s just that the faith journey Bruce is on is so much more than any of the worries or concerns.”
Snider said he has been telling his patients at their annual exams about his new policy.
“I thought it would really be a struggle to explain why I’m doing this. But, so far, most everyone has been very respectful,” said Snider. “Time will tell if they continue to see me as a patient.”
Snider plans to seek further training in natural family planning so he can continue to meet the family planning needs of his patients, now that he has stopped prescribing birth control.
In the meantime, he is continuing to take his faith and work one step at a time.