“I didn’t expect that these two paths — medicine and faith — would converge,” Sister Victoria (Vicky) Segura, MD, shares as she reflects on her life’s calling to be either a physician or a Catholic Sister. When she began this journey in her life, she had no idea she would be called to serve as both.
More than a century ago, Sister Vicky’s grandfather was a physician in the Philippines. They were a typical Catholic family, going to church and celebrating the holidays. Her grandfather, a forward-thinking man, wanted to make sure that the women in his family got an education. And so, his daughter – Sister Vicky’s mother – became a physician, too.
Like her grandfather and her mother before her, Sister Vicky graduated from medical school in the Philippines in 1967. She then joined three medical school friends — all women — and came to the United States. From a small town in Ohio to New York City, she practiced as a pathologist and medical examiner. Yet, she always found herself thinking more deeply about what she wanted to do with her life.
One day, she was reading a medical journal and saw an ad titled, “Women Who Care.” That’s how she was introduced to the Sisters of Bon Secours — a religious order of women who care for the sick and the dying.
“It took me several years of prayerful consideration to clarify my decision to join,” recalls Sister Vicky.
“But, as I became more familiar with their world, I saw how much I enjoyed the company of the Sisters.”
Sister Vicky often jokes that doesn’t fit easily into boxes as an immigrant, a woman and a Sister. Also, in the early 1980s people didn’t know what “hospice” was — or even how to pronounce it. She immersed herself in the emerging field and became the first full-time hospice physician in central Virginia.
“It was a natural extension of my commitment to serve,” she says.
Sister Vicky became the first hospice physician in the entire Bon Secours health system and was in the first class of certified hospice physicians in the country. Her compassion and talents for serving this vulnerable population established her as a visionary leader for developing the hospice program in Central Virginia.
Perhaps the ultimate accomplishment of Sister Vicky’s work as a woman and minority physician is her pivotal role in developing the Bon Secours Community Hospice House. This warm, inviting 16-bed facility was built to provide exceptional hospice and end-of-life care to the Richmond community.
While hospice care is often delivered in the familiar surroundings of a patient’s home, some patients with complex symptom management cannot medically or safely remain at home and are frequently admitted to a hospital or a nursing home. It is these short-stay situations for which the Community Hospice House was designed. As the Richmond metropolitan area’s only freestanding hospice facility, the Community Hospice House is a place where patients receive 24/7 hospital-level care in a homelike environment.
Sister Vicky says throughout her pioneering work in this field, she felt a connection to the original Sisters of Bon Secours, who were considered radical in the 1800s for going into their community in France to care for the sick and dying.
“I’ve been in Richmond since 1980 — that’s a bit more than half my life now. I still see how hospice can be tough for families, or even physicians, to accept,” says Sister Vicky.
Despite the odds, she brought compassionate end-of-life care to our community. Thousands of patients and families in the Richmond area have benefitted from her care. That magazine ad — the one that changed her life — is a statement not just about her calling, but about all women.
“Like you, I have made vows that some might see as sacrifices. Like you, I have sought meaning in my professional and personal lives. Like you, I feel a need to serve others. In truth, we are all ‘Women Who Care’,” she says.
Sister Vicky was recently honored at the Richmond Times-Dispatch Strong Voices event that celebrates the power and stories of Richmond women. She is one of nine featured participants in this Richmond Times-Dispatch video program that marks Women’s History Month.
Sister Vicky and her fellow Voices shared personal stories that touch on how women continue to persevere, continue to inspire and be inspired, and continue to extend the path for new generations.
Learn about the hospice and palliative care services we offer at Bon Secours.