Dr. Grace Jazrawi
Dr. Grace Jazrawi
Their dream — a Catholic, nonprofit medical clinic — wasn’t even legal in Oregon.

When Drs. William Toffler, Mike Sherman, Grace Jazrawi and others sat down together Dec. 29, 2019, to make their vision a reality, they learned just how radical it was. Oregon doesn’t allow nonprofit physicians’ clinics.

The group persevered, incorporating their nonprofit in Washington state and opened the first Holy Family Clinic in West Linn. Archbishop Alexander Sample blessing the facility in September 2020.

In November 2021 the founders opened the second Holy Family Clinic in Corvallis.

Their challenges remind Dr. Sherman of St. Faustina Kowalska. “She wrote how God says we’re going to be challenged; he doesn’t tell us it’s going to be easy. But the saints are cheering us on.”

The group, said Dr. Grace Jazrawi, actually set up two nonprofits: one for the clinic and a foundation, Sanctitas Vitae Foundation, the clinic’s primary supporter.

Dr. Jazrawi explains that the group hopes to set up a number of clinics to offer Catholic health care around the state.

“We’re almost to the point where, if some young doctors wanted to set up a Holy Family clinic, that could happen,” Dr. Jazrawi said.

Patients travel to the current clinics from as far away as Klamath Falls, and people in Eugene have asked the doctors if they couldn’t open a clinic there.

The Holy Family doctors have reached out to other physicians in the Catholic Medical Association and in Catholic communities to seek out medical professionals who might want to join them.

When the group started, some well-wishers warned them to keep their faith component under wraps.

That didn’t happen.

“We are very openly Catholic,” said Dr. Sherman. “There’s no question that faith rules our lives. We pray together every morning and we pray with patients.”

That doesn’t mean all their patients are Catholic. The group has been pleased by the wide variety of people who come to them.

“We take care of people of all stripes, transgender, people living homosexual lifestyles,” said Dr. Sherman. “We don’t judge. We’re not out there to be obnoxious. That’s not the intent.”

But neither do they hide who they are to fit in, and they embrace the evangelical nature of their mission. “Most people of good will are attracted to good and beauty and love,” said Dr. Sherman. “Some aren’t. But that’s OK, we’ll remain faithful. And God’s been faithful in return.”

The Holy Family clinics were modeled to an extent on the Gianna centers, founded by Anne Nolte in Manhattan in 2009 which now boasts clinics on Long Island and in Philadelphia. They are named for St. Gianna, the Italian mother of three who gave up her life in order to bear her fourth child.

Dr. Jazrawi in particular has focused on their emphasis on natural family planning, in particular FertilityCare and NaPro Technology, as taught at the Saint Paul VI Institute in Omaha.

Another physician at the clinic, Dr. Mark Mailhot, is especially called to serve people living on the streets and hopes for a satellite clinic that would do that.

All the health care providers at the Holy Family clinics hew to the 2,500-year-old Hippocratic Oath.

“It’s a promise to patients to put their interests above your own interest,” said Dr. Sherman. “It’s about a relationship.”

Dr. Sherman believes that the Hippocratic Oath is as crucial today as it was when it was written, 500 years before Jesus walked on earth. Why would they write it if abuses weren’t going on? Dr. Sherman asks. “It’s human nature, which doesn’t change.”

Patients at the Holy Family clinics, said Dr. Jazrawi, are choosing a small Catholic clinic instead of corporate health care. “It’s back to a relationship between people and their doctor.”

The work is a calling, said Dr. Sherman, who, when he went to medical school, thought he might be a missionary doctor.

As it turned out, it would be his oldest daughter who would do missionary work — in Honduras.

“My wife and I prayed and felt this was where God wanted us to be,” Dr. Sherman said.

In a way, he feels he is doing his missionary work here. “We’re asked to be the light that the Spirit wants us to be.”

Physicians at the clinics at first went without salaries, working in a way similar to missionary doctors. The clinics have been doing so well, however, that beginning in March 2021 the doctors are taking a small stipend.

Dr. Toffler has been underwriting expenses, he said, and the Shermans have been living off their savings. Physicians’ spouses have been earning their household living as well.

They acknowledge that young doctors, with hefty medical school debts, would not be able to work for free — but more seasoned doctors could join, but won’t make the salaries that pay for mansions and swimming pools.

“This is a vocation, something God is calling you to do,” said Dr. Sherman. “Many doctors are called to that.”