Chaplain Don Fuller

20140318_Chaplain Fuller 01
Chaplain Don Fuller of the Memphis VA Medical Center

Who I am…

My name is Don Fuller. I work here at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Memphis, Tennessee.

I’m what they call the Outpatient Mental Health Chaplain. I visit outpatient veterans. I am the staff chaplain over alcohol and drugs, and the mental health inpatient program.

This October will be 15 years as staff.

What led me here…

I am a veteran also. I did four years in the active army, field artillery. I was gung-ho. I was going to be a 20-, 30-year-old veteran.

I was labeled as a, as the best field artillerist in the free world. That term, it was good for some who wanted to do 20, 30 years. But I looked at it differently. I said, I was the best at long-range killing and that didn’t sit good with me. I also felt there was a different path that God was calling me and that was the path of chaplaincy.

How faith plays a role in my work…

There’s more to a person than just Sunday morning. Everybody’s not in the church, number one, everybody’s not comfortable with organized religion.

Spirituality is primary and spirituality in the staff chaplain’s view is how the veteran relate to their god or their higher power or their deity. And so we meet them there. That way it’s not all funneled through a certain religion.

I believe that God really wants you and I, as human beings, to attend to each other’s totality – mind, body, soul, spirit. So my faith plays a large, a large part in what I do here.

I define healthcare as…

Personally, I think my definition could be just as simple as providing the medical, psychological, social, spiritual needs of the person to a high degree.

One of Memphis’ greatest healthcare challenge is…

Regional 1, that’s the name of it, they’re always faced with issues of, “Do we have enough?” I think that’s a shame for Memphis to allow a level 5 trauma unit such as that to be on the brinks of bankruptcy. That’s a shame. So that’s a challenge for Memphis.

Classism.

A veteran who served this country to be homeless. That means somewhere, somehow a person who actually gave their all to this country has fallen through the cracks.

But what Memphis healthcare is doing right is…

Memphis is a part of what they call the Volunteer State. And that spirit of volunteerism is, I think it’s thick in healthcare.

The biggest challenge in my healthcare work is…

As it is now, there are six staff chaplain, five residents and four students, and there are some 20,000 people, veterans, that come through this hospital. One of the challenges, therefore, is we can’t meet the need of everybody. We need more qualified, trained chaplains.

The greatest reward in my healthcare work is…

The reward to have a job in this economy.

And knowing that the product that I delivered is well-received and well-needed. When the veteran can say that, you know, “Chaplain, you really helped me.” I give from the heart and it’s received that way.

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