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From Patient to Doctor: Esteban Arevalo’s Story

Two weeks before flying to the US to begin his residency, Chilean medical student Esteban Arevalo stepped into the role of a patient. The word had just come back from his own doctor that his back pain and joint stiffness was due to an autoimmune condition called ankylosing spondylitis. Testing confirmed he shared the same genetic marker as his father—a condition marker resulting in potentially very undesirable outcomes.

Esteban, who had once read that, “True happiness is found in true service,” was at first shaken to think that his future of serving others as an internal medicine physician would be jeopardized by a chronic inflammatory condition. 

“I was traveling to another country, so I didn’t have the opportunity to get into any treatments or to have any specialized evaluations beyond the diagnosis workup,” Esteban shares. “But one thing I knew was that Jesus is my friend, and that He is going to be with me always.” 

Fears clouded his view for only a moment. Esteban determined he would trust in Divine wisdom to help him navigate the new health challenge before him. Once in his residency, Esteban focused on using lifestyle changes to minimize symptoms. He found stress management to prove an often difficult challenge. During a critical point in his disease onset, with stress compounding his symptoms, Esteban connected with Med Missionary, a ministry that would bring special light to his path.

Dr. Esteban after completing a Lifestyle Medicine Observer Program.

“I remember I called Mercy and I said, ‘you know, I was looking at your ministry online, and it’s so encouraging to me, do you think this could be something I could practice?’” Esteban recalls asking. When Mercy asked what his schedule looked like, Esteban described the 80-hour residency work week.

“‘Well, Esteban, this is a very intensive program,’” was Mercy’s reply. “‘I don’t know if you’ll be able to do that at the same time that you do your residency. But maybe if you have a break, at some point, you could take some time at home to do it with help.’” 

Esteban decided to pray. He felt impressed to pursue the medical missionary training the ministry offered, and though still in residency, he purposed to put every diet and lifestyle protocol into practice.

“I pretty soon realized it was quite something,” Esteban shares. 

It was at this point that Esteban saw God work through who he calls a “human angel.” Esteban’s girlfriend, who lived 15 hours away, stepped in to provide the timely support needed for Esteban to continue the Med Missionary diet and lifestyle protocols. The two cooked together, and at the end of her visits, his freezer was packed full of prepared foods. 

“She checked on me every day to make sure I was alright, and following all the components of the program,” Esteban shares, describing the timely and needed support. 

And follow all the components he did. Within a few months of starting the protocols, Esteban noted 90 percent improvement in his pain and stiffness. 

“I really praise God for that, because that was a very huge improvement in a very short amount of time,” Esteban remarked. 

With two months still to go in the initial phase of the dietary protocol, Esteban graduated Med Missionary’s training course and continued to faithfully follow all components. After four months, he then began incorporating ingredients back into his diet. 

“This idea about healing your gut, it really works,” Esteban says. “Even if you had some food sensitivities in the past, God can heal your gut to the point that you may not be sensitive anymore. And for God’s glory, I can say, at least to this date, that I have not identified, not even one plant-based ingredient that brings on symptoms.”

Through his experiences, Esteban praises God for showing him the connection between the digestive system and the brain, and just how significantly stress and mental health factor into overall health. 

“I think we not we should not only study what to eat, but also what to think,” Esteban says. “It is very important to learn how to have Jesus in our thoughts every day.” 

As he continues his internal medicine residency, Esteban takes time to share his story with others and to encourage those with health challenges to step out in faith and do what is best for their health, even if the changes are challenging. 

For Esteban, the results were worth it. 

Hear Dr. Esteban share his story in his keynote address for Med Missionary’s class 9 graduation on Nov. 6, 2022 via the link below.


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