Heartbeat International is mourning the passing of Dr. Freda McKissic Bush, an OB-GYN and former medical advisor for Heartbeat who served in both women’s health and pregnancy help for many years.
Bush, of Jackson, Miss., died Jan. 15. She was 75.
"Dr. Freda was a beloved physician, speaker, and author,” said Jor-El Godsey, President of Heartbeat International. “Perhaps her greatest contribution to the pro-life movement was her steadfast leadership and ability to speak softly with power, poise, and purpose.”
“While we mourn her loss, we celebrate the gift she was in Mississippi and for the rest of the country," Godsey said.
Former Heartbeat International Vice President of Ministry Services Betty McDowell reflected on Bush’s professional and personal legacies.
“Dr. Bush was an inspiration to many,” McDowell said. “She showed such compassion for the women under her care.”
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“Dr. Bush’s work, ministry and love certainly leave a legacy that will never be fully realized this side of heaven,” said McDowell. “I’m grateful to have known her, learned from her and to have witnessed her love in action.”
Bush was born in Arkansas and graduated from the University of Arkansas School of Nursing before practicing as a nurse. She graduated from Columbia University and became a nurse-midwife, and then went on to graduate from the University of Mississippi Medical School. In 1987 she completed her residency training at the University of Tennessee in Memphis.
Bush practiced as an OB-GYN in Jackson, Miss., from 1987 until her 2017 retirement, according to her obituary in Arkansas Democrat Gazette.
She had also been a clinical instructor in the OB-GYN and Family Medicine departments at the University of Mississippi Medical Center.
Bush was a Fellow of the American College OB-GYN and a Board Member of the American Association of Pro-life OB-GYN.
She served on the Mississippi State Board of Medical Licensure from 1996-2006, which included a term as president from 2000-2002.
In 2010 Bush became chair of the Board of Directors for the Federation of State Medical Boards' (FSMB), a chapter of the national not-for-profit representing the 70 state medical and osteopathic boards in the United States.
In February 2012 Bush became President/CEO of the Medical Institute for Sexual Health.
She co-authored two books with Joe S. McIlhaney, MD; HOOKED, New Science on How Casual Sex is Affecting Our Children, and Girls Uncovered, New Research on What America's Sexual Culture Does to Young Women.
Bush was member of the Mississippi Governor's Blue Ribbon Task Force on Teen Pregnancy Prevention and served as chair of the Medical Advisory Subcommittee.
Bush also served as a presidential appointee to the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS from 2006-2009.
She was a contributing writer for Faith Matters: How African American Faith Communities Can Help Prevent Teen Pregnancy published by the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy.
Bush was a member of the Physician's Resource Council for Focus on the Family, and she served as a medical advisor for Heartbeat International and CareNet.
Bush was medical director for the Center for Pregnancy Choices, Metro Jackson.
She spent much of her time speaking on sexual health, sexually transmitted diseases, and social behavior education. Bush presented seminars for health professionals, educators, parents, and youth in several cities and states as well, and co-sponsoring a conference in Jackson, Miss., for seven years.
She published articles in the Journal of Medical Regulation, the Mississippi State Medical Association Journal, Christianity Today, Charisma Magazine, and Christian Living Metro Jackson.
Bush was a keynote presenter and taught in the Medical Impact track at the Annual Heartbeat Pregnancy Help Conference in 2010 and 2015.
McDowell recalled a time when Bush was a keynote at Heartbeat’s conference. Bush was not feeling well, and her husband was with her watching over and caring for her.
“The two of them were all smiles and so gracious to all our attendees,” McDowell said. “We knew she needed rest, but she insisted on staying to greet people and answer questions. She gave of herself.”
“I listened to her as she recounted stories of how she helped women understand how their bodies worked and how this information changed the way women viewed themselves, family and marriage,” McDowell said.
“Even when she had a full schedule, she would take time to answer my requests for advice on how to address challenges and better serve women through my work at Heartbeat,” she said.
“Dr. Bush was the LOVE approach in action,” said McDowell. “Listening and Learning, Opening options for women, awakening Vision for what a woman’s life could be and Equipping/Empowering individuals, organizations and movements.”
“Humble, kind, compassionate are the first words that come to mind,” said McDowell. “Dr. Bush also had a smile that immediately put people at ease.”
Dr. Peggy Hartshorn, chair of the Heartbeat International Board of Directors and former longtime president of Heartbeat, praised Bush’s work as an author.
“Her book on the hook up culture, HOOKED, was, and still is, in its new edition, a key resource, to help us understand and respond to the culture of “sex as recreation,” which is so harmful to women especially,” Hartshorn said.
Heartbeat International Director of Affiliate Services Beth Diemert worked with Bush both in pregnancy help and at Heartbeat’s Conference.
“I had the privilege of meeting Dr. Freda when I was on-site working with the board at what is now the Cline Centers, where she was their medical director,” Diemert said. “She was an amazing, dynamic woman, leader, and doctor.”
“My memory is the confidence that she deposited into the organization and its leadership, particularly the executive director,” said Diemert. “The woman had no hesitation or fear.”
“She was a conference speaker for many years after I met her and always brought a wealth of knowledge and experience to the Pregnancy Help Conference,” Diemert added, “with a very willing spirit to share and educate.”
"Dr. Freda made a huge deposit into the work and lives of those in the pregnancy help community for many years, and her legacy will carry forward in many tangible ways for years to come,” she said. “She was truly a gift to us in advancing the mission of life."
Bush is survived by her husband of 53 years, Lee R. Bush, Sr., along with their four children, her four brothers, one sister, two sisters-in-law, a god sister, 12 grandchildren, three great-grandchildren, and many nieces and nephews.
She was preceded in death by two brothers and two sisters.
A scholarship has been established at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences School of Nursing in Little Rock, Ark.
Memorial services for Bush were held on Jan. 27, at New Horizon Church International in Jackson, Miss.
Editor's note: Heartbeat International manages Pregnancy Help News.