By Marilyn Tinnin


Dr. Kristen & Nick Crawford

A couple in the ‘people-helping business’



When other 4-year-olds were watching Disney flicks, Merit Health’s Dr. Kristen Cox Crawford remembers sitting cross legged in front of the television set, eyes wide open watching an orthopedic surgeon perform an uncensored total ankle replacement. There was never a time the sight of blood made her blink.


When her mom bought educational toys for Kristen and her younger sister, Kristen’s interest was always toward anything scientific. In high school she took summer jobs shadowing physical therapists, athletic trainers or physicians. When her aunts who were nurses told stories about their patients, Kristen hung on every word.


It was no surprise to anyone who knew her that she entered medical school as soon as she graduated from Mississippi College in 2008. The only unexpected turn came when she chose internal medicine over orthopedics.


“I just always assumed I would go into orthopedics because of sports, but I ended up not liking early mornings and cold rooms without windows,” both of which were frequent inconveniences for an orthopedic intern.


She also discovered something she really liked about the relationship that developed over time between an internist and a patient: “You really get to know people. I like to see them get better over time.”


A quick check on the Merit website can give you a few “patient reviews” about Dr. Crawford. It is clear that her sincerity and concern comes through in the treatment room.


Kristen came into the medical sector about the same time healthcare delivery was in complete transformation mode. She finds much of the regulatory procedures to be “demoralizing” at times because much box checking and data collection does nothing to enhance patient care. In the middle of it all, however, she can’t imagine doing anything else.


“I get to talk to people all day. I get to hear their stories. I think its ministry. It’s my ministry.”


At the core of Kristen’s professional integrity is her Christian faith. You could call her a “cradle Christian,” but her personal relationship with the Lord is not something she takes for granted. It keeps her grounded and joyfully juggling a few very full plates every day.


Did I mention she is a pastor’s wife and the mother of a 4-year-old and a 1-year-old? Husband Nick Crawford is executive pastor at Fondren Church in Jackson. Nick began his professional career as an attorney, a vocation he chose because he “wanted to help problem-solve for other people.”


It was through dating Kristen and becoming involved in a small group Bible study at Pinelake that his career path made a 180-degree turn. He met Fondren Church’s Senior Pastor, Robert Green, and went from new Christian to discipleship leader practically overnight. (Fondren is a Pinelake church plant.)


That friendship with Robert sparked a passion in Nick’s life: He still wanted to help problem-solve, but “to help take people from where they are to where Jesus wants them to go.”


As executive pastor, Nick is the visionary and the strategic organizer. According to Kristen, “His gift is teaching. Whether he is telling you how to hold a tennis racket or how to study the Bible, he is just a great teacher, and he does it with depth and reach and clarity.”


As a couple that share different ends of “the people-helping business,” their work and play appear to be beautifully intermingled. In this season of young children, Nick says, “Much of our play revolves around them. So we spend a lot of time at home in the front yard, so we can overlap our play with meeting and growing relationships with our neighbors for the sake of the gospel. We may not be able to travel very far to meet someone new right now, but we can invite someone near into our baseball game or whatever else our kids want to do that day!”


Kristen says, “Our prayer was to always have ‘portable’ kids. Before we became parents, that’s how Nick described kids that are adaptable and flexible and can go with the flow. We wanted our kiddos to be able to do life with us and for us to continue to do our life with them in tow.”


Nick agrees. “We all have the same 168 hours each week, so why not start with the things that matter most to our King? All this helps us make time for the things that really do matter most — God, our marriage, our kids, then our work. Rather than add a bunch of different hobbies, we’re now entering a season where we’re trying to enjoy the same hobbies. This helps us play together, and it allows our kids to see us having fun together. So come on over to the house. We’d love to see you in the front yard, and then, at the dinner table.”


I’m thinking I might take him up on the invitation!