Defending Life at Dartmouth: An Interview with Ana Maria Dumitru

An Interview with Ana Maria Dumitru

Ana Maria Dumitru is a sixth year MD-PhD candidate at Dartmouth College’s Geisel School of Medicine, a member of Medical Students for Life, a trained instructor on Natural Family Planning methods, and a frequent speaker and writer on pro-life and natural fertility issues. BlackFriars spoke with Ana Maria about standing up for Life on a secular campus and her relationship with the Dominican Friars, who serve the Aquinas House Catholic Student Center at Dartmouth.

Photos by Matthew Lomano
Photos by Matthew Lomano

How did you become a spokesperson for the Church’s teachings on life and fertility issues?

I’ve been Catholic and Pro-Life my whole life, but I’ve never been forced to take a stand for either until I got to Dartmouth. In my first year, one of my classmates cornered me in the hallway and questioned me on the difference between the Catholic Church’s teaching on Natural Family Planning and artificial birth control. From then on, I found myself in increasingly intense conversations about the meaning and purpose of studying medicine and the teachings of the Catholic Church.

Have you encountered resistance in standing up for the sanctity of life?

For the most part the people that I’ve debated here at Dartmouth have been reasonable, but at times I’ve been insulted and yelled at. I’ve seen a whole range of reactions. What has changed is my own way of responding and the manner in which I engage these conversations. When I first got here, I tried to fly under the radar. Now if someone asks me to have a conversation about a controversial issue, I’m there – I’m ready. The shift is the result of praying for courage and the ability to articulate my beliefs.

How have our friars supported you in facing controversy?

The friars have been an intellectual resource. Fr. Thomas More Garrett taught a summer series on campus about religious liberty and the Constitution [in connection with The Waterman Institute] that helped me frame life issues in terms of legislative history. Many friars have pointed me to books, articles, and blogs that address current events in light of Church teaching. Even before I started conducting research, I benefited from Dominican preaching. The homilies of the friars are very distinctive and I learn something new each day at Mass at the Aquinas Center.

Ana Maria prays during Mass at Aquinas House. Photo by Matthew Lomano

How has the Dominican presence on campus benefited you spiritually?

I was in a dark place at the end of my first year of med school. I was feeling overwhelmed and tired and I hadn’t yet learned how to articulate my beliefs. Then the Dominican student brothers arrived for the summer and brought fresh energy, knowledge, and support. Time and again, the Dominicans have reminded me that I’m not alone in my journey. I can feel the power of their prayers. I’ve written articles and I’ve done radio interviews, and they’ve always prayed me through it. I am certain I wouldn’t be at this point in my faith journey without their prayers.

Does Dominican spirituality continue to play a role in your life?

Around exam time during my first year of med school, Fr. Jonathan Kalisch [former chaplain at Aquinas House] gave me the Prayer of St. Thomas Aquinas Before Study. I’ve been praying it every day since. St. Thomas is an intellectual giant, yet he realized that everything we do on this earth is nothing compared with what comes next. He helps me remember that God has a plan for everything. He has all the knowledge and truth, and I just have to try my best to be His witness here.

Fr. Brendan Murphy, O.P., Chaplain of Aquinas House at Dartmouth College with students. Photo by Matthew Lomano
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