Dr. Stephen Mandell remembers a particular scene that took place outside the window of his office at Mary Washington Hospital as the world was shutting down to contain the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic in the spring of 2020.
Just in front of the hospital, a pickup truck pulled up, and a little girl and her father got out. The father placed a call on his phone. He and his daughter looked up to a hospital window and began waving.
“They were waving to their loved one,” Dr. Mandell remembers. “That was such an enduring image to me of how this isolating pandemic has challenged everybody in so many ways, but also how we have seen so many people step up and show such compassion.”
Dr. Mandell is Senior Medical Director for Mary Washington Healthcare. He has worked throughout the pandemic to help the nonprofit community healthcare system make the most of limited supplies, ever-changing guidance, emerging treatments, and other unforeseen challenges the crisis has thrown at healthcare organizations.
He said his thoughts have frequently taken him to 1 Corinthians 15:10 during the pandemic, as he has prayed with other physicians in his office, prayed for guidance, and looked to the Lord for wisdom in dealing with unprecedented situations.
In the verse, Paul declares that his accomplishments as an apostle are not a product of his own doing, but of God’s grace being poured upon him. Dr. Mandell feels similarly that God’s grace has led him through this and other challenges in his life.
“From that grace you are thrown into the fire, but it’s not you who stays in that fire doing the work yourself; it’s His grace being poured over you day in and day out and granting you the wisdom to be able to figure it out,” he said.
As a board member and father of three children who have graduated from Fredericksburg Christian School—Elizabeth (’02), Chris (’05) and Tabitha (’07)—Dr. Mandell also helped counsel the school as it committed to return to in-person education safely in the fall of 2020.
For schools, for healthcare workers, and for individuals, Dr. Mandell has a simple observation about what people are being called to do in response to the pandemic.
“The principles to get through this pandemic are really biblical principles,” he says. “That is, it’s not all about me. Consider others more important than yourself.”
For FCS, Dr. Mandell said he advised Superintendent Rick Yost to set solid protocols and be strict about enforcing the rules.
“This was important not only because it was the right thing to do, but also because everybody was watching. We were one of only two schools in the region going back,” Dr. Mandell said. “This was a testimony. They did a great job in putting that together and being able to stay in school.”
Dr. Mandell joined the Fredericksburg area community more than 35 years ago, when he was fresh out of residency in Richmond and newly married to his wife, Ellen.
He completed his undergraduate and medical education at the University of Kentucky, and some of his schooling was supported by a scholarship to support work in underserved areas.
When looking for a place to settle, he said, he and Ellen prayed for direction.
“We said, ‘Lord where can we know you the best?’” he remembers.
That ended up being the rural town of Bowling Green in Caroline County, where Dr. Mandell practiced as a physician until he joined Mary Washington Healthcare nearly a decade ago.