Paul Welch

Paul Welch
Episode 119

Join host Japhet De Oliveira as he sits down with Paul Welch, the medical officer at Adventist Health Tillamook, to discuss his experience as an OBG-YN, his love for stories and the importance of forgiveness, both towards others and oneself.
Libsyn Podcast
"I think the most difficult thing that we have to learn to do is to forgive ourselves. Our past mistakes and experiences only tend to cripple us as much as we continue to live in them and refuse to forgive ourselves for them."

Narrator: Welcome friends to another episode of the Story and Experience podcast. Join your host, Japhet De Oliveira with his guest today and discover the moments that shape us, our families and communities.

Japhet De Oliveira: Hey, welcome friends to another episode of the Story and Experience podcast. I'm delighted to be sitting here with a new guest, and you're going to meet this person. You'd be delighted to be able to meet this person, as I am as well. If you're brand new to the podcast, we have 100 questions. They progressively become more vulnerable and open the closer you get to 100, they're about stories and experiences that shape this individual into the leader that they are today. So I'm going to ask the first 10, and then I'm going to hand over to them, and they get to pick between 11 and 100 where they want to go. Let's begin. They're smiling. This is a good sign. Could you tell us your name?

Paul Welch: Paul Welch.

Japhet De Oliveira: Anybody ever have any problems spelling that, saying it? No. Straightforward.

Paul Welch: Oftentimes they usually try to switch the C for an S, so I get Welsh a lot.

Japhet De Oliveira: Nice.

Paul Welch: Sometimes I feel like-

Japhet De Oliveira: Any Welsh heritage?

Paul Welch: Yes, actually.

Japhet De Oliveira: See, there you go. So it actually is providential.

Paul Welch: It is.

Japhet De Oliveira: All right. Paul, what do you do?

Paul Welch: So I am the medical officer at Adventist Health Tillamook, and I'm also one of the OB-GYNs here as well. So I can have-

Japhet De Oliveira: Split roles. Hey, that's fantastic. So how long have you been practicing?

Paul Welch: So I've been practicing OB-GYN since 2005, so almost 20 years, I guess.

Japhet De Oliveira: Yeah, just coming up there. Yeah. That's great. That's great. And how long have you been the medical officer here?

Paul Welch: One year now.

Japhet De Oliveira: Okay. Brand new as well. So combined roles, enjoying both?

Paul Welch: Yeah, it's definitely a new challenge, new experiences to be had, but yeah.

Japhet De Oliveira: Yeah. Now I understand OB-GYN, most of our guests would as well. Medical officer, explain what that role really entails.

Paul Welch: Well, that's kind of interesting, because honestly I had an idea of what a vague idea of what I thought it was when I accepted the position, but there's a lot of flexibility to kind of craft a position like this into something that is meaningful to you, and that is useful for the particular environment that you're in. So for me, I want to feel like an advocate for our providers. And prior to working as a medical officer, I spent a year as the ambulatory medical director, which is kind of the cousin of the medical officer I feel like, but in an ambulatory space. And I still help out quite a bit in that space as well. And it's just really nice to have that experience of supporting providers, but now doing it even more so in the inpatient side, which is what I think classically medical officer was geared more toward, the decision making and practice within the inpatient and hospital sphere as an entire system.

Japhet De Oliveira: Common question here and bonus question. Not part of the original 10 here, but recruiting doctors is hard, right?

Paul Welch: Oh, yes, yes. That is why I am still practicing halftime as an OB-GYN.

Japhet De Oliveira: Now 20 years, were you here the entire time? Were you in different places in the United States where you served, or what?

Paul Welch: Yeah, I've been around kind of. I finished my OB-GYN residency in Springfield, Illinois in 2005, and went promptly-

Japhet De Oliveira: Through the snow.

Paul Welch: Through the snow. It was summer though, so snow, but it actually went from there to Columbus, Nebraska. With a lot of help from the local hospital there, started a private practice and was there for seven years. And then, my wife and I decided that we wanted to make a move more toward the West Coast, and had this opportunity open up for us. And we moved out here in 2012 and been here ever since.

Japhet De Oliveira: Wow. Wow. That's fantastic. You like the rural area, the community?

Paul Welch: Yeah, I do. I mean, obviously there's always trade-offs on both sides, but both my wife and I grew up in more rural settings, so it's something that we're familiar with and accustomed to. I mean, we spend a lot of time driving over to Portland.

Japhet De Oliveira: Yeah, yeah, sure. Why not? Why not?

Paul Welch: But when I'm there for longer periods of time, I'm thinking, yeah, actually it's okay to drive over here now and then.

Japhet De Oliveira: Yeah, that's fair enough. So where were you born?

Paul Welch: So I was actually born in St. Louis, Missouri, but I never lived there. My mother went there to deliver me when she was home in the United States. My father was serving in Vietnam as a physician for a hospital in Saigon. And if I remember right, they had just come back with the intention of me delivering in the States. And it was just a couple of months after I was born, they took an assignment to Taipei, Taiwan, to the Adventist Hospital there in Taipei.

Japhet De Oliveira: Wow.

Paul Welch: And my dad worked there for seven years.

Japhet De Oliveira: Really?

Paul Welch: Yeah.

Japhet De Oliveira: So you're from there?

Paul Welch: Yeah, in the first seven years of my life.

Japhet De Oliveira: Bilingual?

Paul Welch: I wish. My parents said that I was very fluent in understanding the nanny that worked in our home, but I don't remember any of it.

Japhet De Oliveira: It's probably all deeply recessed inside there.

Paul Welch: Yeah. Only if we could just bring it to the surface.

Japhet De Oliveira: We'll have to work on that. Hey, that's great. So when you were a child, what did you imagine you would grow up to be?

Paul Welch: Oh, I desperately wanted to be an astronaut.

Japhet De Oliveira: Really?

Paul Welch: Yeah.

Japhet De Oliveira: Go to space.

Paul Welch: Go to space. One of my vivid memories as a small child was my father obtaining the classic publication of Life Magazine, of the moon landing. And I would just leaf through that, and he had it hidden in his, not really hidden, but stored away in his room. And I would go through and basically wore that thing to pieces, just flipping through, and looking at the pages, and imagining myself in Neil Armstrong's place, stepping on the moon.

Japhet De Oliveira: That's amazing.

Paul Welch: Yeah.

Japhet De Oliveira: That's amazing. So you went from wanting to be an astronaut to being a doctor?

Paul Welch: Well, eventually.

Japhet De Oliveira: Eventually.

Paul Welch: In retrospect, there was a lot of other steps or thoughts in that process. I don't know who told me or how I came to the understanding, but maybe it was just some of my research regarding where astronauts were being pulled from at that point in time. And they were largely military and Air Force based, and I thought, oh my goodness, I'm going to have to go through the Air Force Academy, make it in and fly. And then, at a very young age, I discovered that I was deathly afraid of heights, and I thought this is going to conflict with my dreams.

Japhet De Oliveira: Wise man. Wise man. So in the morning when you get up, Paul, coffee, liquid green smoothie, tea, water, what's your first drink of the day?

Paul Welch: Oh, my wife and I got a Nespresso about a year or two ago, and we have a coffee maker, and I really enjoy a early morning routine that starts pretty early, when it's dark and it's quiet, and there's a chair in my office at home, and I get my nice hot cup of coffee in my Yeti. That keeps it warm-

Japhet De Oliveira: Yeah, of course.

Paul Welch: ... for me. And yeah, that's super peaceful, and it's a time for me to contemplate what's been happening, preparation for the day, just some kind of personal reflection, meditation. It's something that actually developed probably around the time of COVID. It wasn't something I always did, and I've just really appreciated it going forward.

Japhet De Oliveira: Yeah, that's great. That's great. Yeti, very Northwest of you. Very mountain of you.

Paul Welch: If you say, oh yeah, that's true. Bigfoot, yes.

Japhet De Oliveira: Totally. Hey, so that's fantastic. So when you say early morning, are you an early riser or late night owl?

Paul Welch: I like to do both, but that really causes me to be short on sleep. So I'm trying to transition more into an early riser, and I've just really felt like I've seen a lot of the benefits. I used to wake up just an hour or so before I needed to get ready to go and stuff, but with kids, and we didn't even do it then, but in just the last few years, getting up at between 4:30 and five each day is really good.

Japhet De Oliveira: It's really good.

Paul Welch: Everyone else is asleep. My wife sometimes usually also gets up during that time for some time for herself as well. And I think it's just a really important way to start the day.

Japhet De Oliveira: That's nice. That's good. That's good. Brilliant. All right. Personality, would people describe you as an introvert or as an extrovert? And would you agree with their conclusion of you?

Paul Welch: Well, I definitely know what I am. I don't think some people think it of me sometimes, because of public speaking stuff that I do, and it's taken many years to develop some comfort with that. But I've figured out a way to do it. But I'm absolutely an introvert. Like to say, where do you get your energy from? Well, it's obtained when I'm in private and quiet.

Japhet De Oliveira: Yeah, 4:30 in the morning.

Paul Welch: Yeah, I don't gather it from other people. They drain me.

Japhet De Oliveira: They drain you. Hey, that's fine. That's totally understandable. This morning when you woke up at like 4:30, 5 o'clock and you were sitting there with your Yeti and your coffee, what was the first thought that went through your mind?

Paul Welch: It was dark and it was quiet, and I was thinking about the day and just about some conversations that I'd had with my wife, and thinking about our kids. And prayer is a really important part of that experience in the morning. And so, engaging in some prayer. And then also, there's some devotional thoughts that I run through that are aimed at self-reflection, and just kind of deepening in an awareness of where I'm at, and the great level of need that I have. So I can't remember exactly what else, but that's typically a pretty standard way that it starts for me in the morning.

Japhet De Oliveira: That's good. That's good. I love that. All right, leadership question, and then I'm going to hand over to you. Are you a backseat driver?

Paul Welch: That's a loaded question, because-

Japhet De Oliveira: Is it really?

Paul Welch: Yeah, because I mean, some people like to see themselves the backseat driver, but if you think you're in the front seat and there's a backseater behind you, that's problematic. I feel like the backseat driver is kind of trying to manipulate the situation a little bit. So I really don't like that. So I want to be a passenger side driver.

Japhet De Oliveira: Hey, that's good. That's good. Navigator.

Paul Welch: Yeah, actually, in the days before GPS. That was one of my joys in riding in the cars. My dad would have me sit in the front seat and he would say, "Paul, take out the Atlas," and I would take out the Atlas and I would make our path for our travels out. Yeah.

Japhet De Oliveira: That's good. That's good. All right, well, the floor's open. So Paul, so where would you like to go? Anywhere from 11 to 100.

Paul Welch: I don't know. Let's start at the beginning.

Japhet De Oliveira: Okay. Which one would you like? Yeah, you have to pick the numbers to see the way it works, and I would love to pick them, but I have to refrain too. Yeah.

Paul Welch: Okay, well. Let's do 12.

Japhet De Oliveira: 12.

Paul Welch: That's a good number.

Japhet De Oliveira: Great. What is your favorite movie or book of all time and why? Movie or book.

Paul Welch: I'm going to say for the book, as a younger person, if I can split this up, I would just say that CS Lewis is the... Not the first one, not the Voyage of the Dawn Treader, but The Last Battle was just very deeply impactful. Maybe a little bit disturbing, maybe a little bit scary. But I read that I'm not sure how many times, but a whole bunch of times. And that was pretty deeply meaningful for me. As an adult though, I would say that there's a group of books, Dallas Willard's Hearing God is something that I read a couple of years ago, and I actually need to go back and read it again.

Japhet De Oliveira: Good book.

Paul Welch: Was really, not to be cliché, but transformative really for me, as far as my spiritual experience. And then the one that most recently has hit me very hard is, especially in this role in leadership, is Ruth Haley Barton's book, Strengthening The Soul of Your Leadership.

Japhet De Oliveira: Oh really? Okay.

Paul Welch: I think it's written for ministerial leaders maybe, but there are just really valuable parallels I feel like, for an organization like Adventist Health in a position of leadership, that I just find a lot of depth in. So I've read it once and I'm reading again with my brother. Those are two that I just, or three I guess total there that are really meaningful to me.

Japhet De Oliveira: That's beautiful. I like it. Thank you. Thank you. All right, where next after 12?

Paul Welch: Let's do 17.

Japhet De Oliveira: 17, all right. Share what day is most special of the entire year for you and why? Oh, nope. Is that right? Did I read that right? Yes. On the calendar, one day in the entire year, that's most special and why? Oh yeah.

Paul Welch: Wow. Thanksgiving. And I know that's maybe also kind of classic or cheesy, maybe a little bit, but I've really developed a sense, especially with, we have four kids and two of them are older, and so they come back now, and they bring family and friends, and such. And I just really appreciate the opportunity that Thanksgiving provides. It's not really the pressure of Christmas sometimes. I mean, I would've said Christmas as a child. Of course that is the best and it's still really amazing. But there's something about the idea of gratitude. The idea of gratitude is something as I'm older now that really speaks to me at a level that I want to exemplify and I want to experience. And so, I really love Thanksgiving.

Japhet De Oliveira: Oh, I love that too. I love that too. That's good. That's good. All right. Where next after 17?

Paul Welch: Let's skip, 21 how about?

Japhet De Oliveira: 21. Share the best compliment you've ever received?

Paul Welch: Wow. It's kind of interesting, because compliments are something that are very important to us, and yet it's often the case that, I'll speak for myself, that there is a deep sense or a worry regarding the idea of becoming prideful. And so, there was a point in my life where I was much more dismissive of compliments. And there was a point later on where I suddenly realized that that was not beneficial, and that I needed to accept the compliment.

Not caress it or perseverate on it for extended periods of time, but to honestly and humbly accept it every time, say thank you, I do appreciate that, because words of affirmation are great. And some of the best ones I can't remember specifically, involve having the privilege of being part of the birth of a child, of a family that you've been engaged with for several months. And then you have this amazing experience where you get to join them in this incredible moment. And you're the lucky one who gets to hold this little child first, and just marvel at this gift. And then you get to share it and give it back to them. And the words of gratitude and joy, that's hard to describe. That's amazing.

Japhet De Oliveira: That's beautiful. That is beautiful. Hey, you know I didn't ask you this, but it's not one of the questions, but I'm going to add it now. So you have four kids?

Paul Welch: Yeah.

Japhet De Oliveira: How old are these kids?

Paul Welch: So yeah. So my oldest is 24, and then I have a 22-year-old, and then I have a 14-year-old and 11-year-old.

Japhet De Oliveira: Fantastic. You've got quite a spectrum.

Paul Welch: We've got a spread.

Japhet De Oliveira: Yeah. Yeah. Good for you. Keeps you going.

Paul Welch: Yes, it does.

Japhet De Oliveira: All right, where do you want to go next then?

Paul Welch: Oh, let's keep skipping along. How about 25?

Japhet De Oliveira: 25. All right. Share the most beautiful thing you've ever seen.

Paul Welch: I think a couple of years ago, my cousin took me mountain climbing on Mount Adams up in Washington, and hadn't done a lot of that. And it's been fun to get into that a little bit with my brother. But my cousin is a big time climber and he was excited to take us along. And I can remember going at about, it was about 8,000 feet to our camp spot before we were going to make the ascent up the glacier on the, I think it was the east side of Adams. And the sun was setting and it was just kind of a surreal view, because you had this mountain that was ice covered and snow covered. There's no vegetation anywhere. There's rocks, it's quiet, there's a little bit of wind, where they were by a little bit of a frozen lake, but it just felt otherworldly. Like I was on Mars and up at the cap or whatever. And it was just, there's something about mountains that just really kind of takes my breath away, it's hard work. It's difficult, but the views are just amazing.

Japhet De Oliveira: That's beautiful. Thank you for sharing that. Let's inspire people to climb mountains now, with their Yeti.

Paul Welch: With their Yeti, there you go.

Japhet De Oliveira: All right, we're next.

Paul Welch: Let's see, how about 28?

Japhet De Oliveira: 28. If you had to give an impromptu 30 minute presentation, what would it be?

Paul Welch: Oh, impromptu presentation. I am a lover of stories and depending on the group, it would probably have to be a conversation about some of the most impactful stories of my life, and how those have crafted me into the person that I am. And hopefully it would be coherent and they would appreciate it. 28, what did you say? 30 minutes?

Japhet De Oliveira: 30 minutes.

Paul Welch: Oh my goodness.

Japhet De Oliveira: Well, we don't have 30 minutes now, but how about this bonus question.

Paul Welch: I knew this was coming.

Japhet De Oliveira: One of those impactful moments. Can you share? Yeah. You knew.

Paul Welch: I knew it was coming.

Japhet De Oliveira: Well, yeah. That shaped your life.

Paul Welch: Yeah, yeah. So I'm sure my brother won't mind.

Japhet De Oliveira: When he hears it.

Paul Welch: [inaudible 00:22:03]

Whatever. So he and I, we're on great terms now. I really enjoy speaking with him about every Wednesday, we catch up on fatherhood and just being adults, and on the spiritual journey. But when we were younger, that was not so. And one of the interesting stories that probably really shaped quite a few things was, late at night on this little enclosed compound in the capital city of Taiwan, Taipei, there was a bunch of kids that were children of the parents who worked at the hospital.

And we would often get together and just kind of do stuff on Saturday night. And one particular Saturday night, we were playing some kind of rough housing game, and my brother was chasing my sister up onto the porch steps, and I got myself in the middle and was trying to play the protector or whatever. And he gave me a mighty shove, and I lost my balance and I fell backwards. And I can remember falling backwards, because it is one of those things that frightens me, falling backwards. And then everything went black. Then when I came to, my dad was swiftly carrying me over to the emergency room at the hospital. And what was interesting to me in retrospect was, the moment I realized when my brother had pushed me over, and I had fallen and hit my head on something, and I was so angry, and I was crying and fussing, and just throwing just this massive fit. And what was interesting to me in retrospect is I don't remember having any pain at all.

Japhet De Oliveira: Interesting.

Paul Welch: But I do remember the amazing fuss that I threw, and I remember being on my back in the, it was either probably the ER procedure room or something, and my parents trying to hold me down, as I was angry still kind of at my brother and at the situation. And they were trying to, the ER doctor was trying to stitch a laceration in my scalp that I had sustained when I fell backwards and hit one of those potted plant holders, the stone ones. And that's one of those things that sticks with you.

Japhet De Oliveira: Yeah.

Paul Welch: Funny stories.

Japhet De Oliveira: Changes the way you think about things. I'm glad you have a great relationship with your brother now, and he doesn't push you physically.

Paul Welch: No, no.

Japhet De Oliveira: That's great. All right, where next then?

Paul Welch: Let's see, how about 31.

Japhet De Oliveira: 31. Tell us about someone you'd love to eat dinner with. The sky's the limit. Anyone past, present?

Paul Welch: Oh, the sky's the limit. Okay. I was narrowing-

Japhet De Oliveira: Yeah, you're like, my neighborhood.

Paul Welch: There's a number of folks, I suppose, in modern history, but in ancient history and probably in line with Ruth Haley Martin's book on Strengthening The Soul of Your Leadership. She basically patterns in the book after the life of Moses. And his struggles in leadership and his experience with this bunch of rabble that those folks were, man, I would be fascinated to hear his take on his experience with that. And yeah, I would, not just the people, but his experience with God, that friendship, that relationship, and working through that as kind of a go-between, in a sense, as representative of God for his people. There's an element of that, that is absolutely present in leadership, and it's a heavy thing to carry. Especially that might not always be true in some other systems or businesses, but in a healthcare organization that ascribes to a Christ-centered ethic, I think that it's something we need to be aware of and we need to live into with humility. And I'd love to talk to Moses about that.

Japhet De Oliveira: Wouldn't that be amazing?

Paul Welch: Yeah.

Japhet De Oliveira: Yeah. That would be good. Good. I can't believe it, Dr. Welch, but we are down to the last two numbers.

Paul Welch: Oh, well, shoot. You said they get tougher as we go on, so let's jump. How about 73?

Japhet De Oliveira: 73. All right, here we go. Oh, share something that you've had to unlearn in your life.

Paul Welch: I would say that something that I've had to unlearn in my life is, and I'm still unlearning it for a large part, is my personality is a little bit more withdrawn at times. And recognizing the need for action that is maybe a little bit more decisive, is something that I have needed to learn. And I needed to unlearn the idea that passivity is always the answer. It's not always the answer. And finding that line of letting that very natural inclination to, well, if I just don't do anything, it'll all get better. Learning not to do that is something I still work with.

Japhet De Oliveira: That's good. That's good. That's good advice for others as well. Yeah, that's good. All right, last number. Where do you want to go?

Paul Welch: Well, you tempted me with a hundred, but I'm not sure I feel that daring. How about 91?

Japhet De Oliveira: 91. All right. Describe a time in your life when you had to learn about forgiveness.

Paul Welch: Oh, I think that one of the most difficult things that we have to learn to do is to forgive ourselves. And without getting into deep specifics, I'll just say that there was an experience from my childhood that plagued me on and off for many years. And I attended a kind of a weekend retreat, and it was something very personal. And even choosing mention it this time, I just... Involved another individual, and their person and their autonomy, and questions that I had about myself, about whether what I had done and what I had encroached upon for them, and the feelings of shame that come with that.

And I had to come to the place where I could accept that there was someone who had already forgiven me. And that, in that I am free to forgive myself, and to let that go, and to say that the experiences and the mistakes of our past tell the story of where we have come from. But they do not need to be a defining feature of who we are now. And our past mistakes and our past experiences only tend to cripple us as much as we continue to live in them, and refuse to forgive ourselves for them. So yeah.

Japhet De Oliveira: Yeah. Mercy and forgiveness, hand in hand.

Paul Welch: Yes.

Japhet De Oliveira: Essential for all of us.

Paul Welch: Absolutely.

Japhet De Oliveira: Every single person. And to forgive ourselves is very hard.

Paul Welch: Yes,

Japhet De Oliveira: Yes. We can forgive others, but ourselves? That's a bit difficult, different.

Paul Welch: Absolutely.

Japhet De Oliveira: Paul, it's been wonderful. Thank you so much for taking the time. I'm going to encourage people to do the same thing that we've just done, just to be able to talk to someone, to ask them some questions, listen to them. It changes us, it changes them. It allows us to be able to grow together. So thank you for the time.

Paul Welch: Thank you so much.

Japhet De Oliveira: Yeah, God bless you, and God bless everybody else, and we'll connect soon.

Narrator: Thank you for joining us for The Story and Experience podcast. We invite you to read, watch, and submit your story and experience at The Story and Experience podcast was brought to you by Adventist Health through the Office of Culture.