Westmont Magazine Begin with Doubt, End with Certainty
Mike Austin ’90 came to college with some uncertainty. Raised in a Christian home by the president of a Christian college, he accepted his parents’ faith but never really made it his own. Although his parents attended Westmont (Bud ’64 and Samantha Bates ’65 Austin), Mike didn’t pick the college as his first choice. He ended up enrolling by default when other options fell through. Told he would be a good doctor, Mike had little interest in medicine and struggled with his decision to major in biology.
But Westmont proved to be a good place for uncertain students. “People asked really interesting questions there,” he says. “When I arrived on campus, I hung my Van Halen posters on the walls. I was a pretty secular being and not particularly interested in honoring God as the first priority in my life. But through my classes and my interactions with professors and students, I began to build a foundation of faith that was my own, not my parents. I still remember meeting at the Schloss and Kihlstrom homes where conversations that started on some academic discussion ended on some wonderful, rambling, thought-provoking journey through what it was like to be a follower of Christ in this world.”
Mike decided to try medicine after graduating, which turned out to be a good decision. “I love being a doctor,” he says. He went to medical school at the University of Texas, San Antonio, not far from his parents’ home in Longview. His wife, Amy Bailey Austin ’91, is from Dallas. They plan to raise their two children in Texas.
Interested in family medicine, Mike soon discovered he enjoyed his young patients the most and switched to pediatrics. “I get to sit on the floor a good part of the day, which is great because I’m just a big kid myself,” he says. “Kids can teach us more about the world, God and life than some of us tainted old adults. I benefit from them.”
Mike works in a private practice in Tyler with other Christian physicians. “It’s a supportive and collegial environment,” he says. “Medicine is not always fun these days, especially the business side, but it’s good to go through it with people you love and trust.”
Surviving medical school and a residency in Denver presented numerous challenges. “The 13 years since my graduation have had high highs and low lows, but the foundation I built at Westmont has sustained me,” Mike says. “It gave me my love of literature that still inspires me to read modern and ancient authors. It stimulated my mind in so many areas. Perhaps this is what I love most. There are many physicians who know little outside of the world of biology and medicine. Yet I have been trained how to be a Christian in the world today. I have not lost my love for theology, apologetics, philosophy, marine biology, even art and music. How cool is that? I have a common link with almost everyone who comes into my office, from the farmer or rancher to the teacher or preacher, which has allowed my practice to be a wonderful relational ministry.”
Mike will expand his outreach during a medical mission over spring break with LeTourneau University, where his father is president. He hopes to do more short-term missions in the future.