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Spring 2008 | Volume 31, Number 1 | Features

Hope in Health Care

Pursuing a future in the health professions

By Cynthia L. Fitch, SPU Associate Professor of Biology and Coordinator of the Pre-Professional Health Sciences Program

What is it that compels students to study organic chemistry at all hours, to volunteer as nursing assistants for months or years, or to slog through writing those all-important “personal statements” in order to be accepted into health professions graduate programs? With so many challenges, such as high GPA requirements, difficult science classes (with labs!), and seemingly endless volunteer hours and activities, students still seek health profession careers by the droves. They will work long days and nights for the opportunity to serve others at their most vulnerable times of illness and injury. Why?


I recently asked this question of my pre-health students. I also asked them about the uncertain state of health care in our country. As a consumer of health care, I believe that things will get worse before they get better. So what gives students hope in this profession as future health care providers? What do they hope to achieve and to accomplish?

This hope, this desire to serve others in such a humbling way, inspires me. It is the reason I love counseling these students as their pre-health advisor. It is also the reason I asked them to share their stories of hope and motivation with the Seattle Pacific University community during the 2007–08 Day of Common Learning as we contemplated the theme of “hope” in our lives, professions, and faith.

The students readily offered their stories to a room full of listeners. Allow me to share just a few:

Ashley, a senior, plans a career in physical therapy and has recently been accepted to several graduate physical therapy programs. When she described her hope for her future profession, she said she was motivated by the desire to help people return to their daily functioning through physical rehabilitation. She particularly has a heart for geriatric patients, a gift which will be greatly needed as the baby boomer generation continues to age.

Steve is studying for a career in medicine and talked about his desire to use medicine to serve the less fortunate. Also a senior, he currently volunteers at a low-income South Seattle clinic and sees the great need for helping this population.

Karen is also preparing for a career in medicine, specifically emergency medicine. In between college and medical school, the junior wants to both fight wildfires and earn her EMT certificate! Her hope is that she can make a difference in people’s lives in any critical situation.

Jordan, a senior, plans to become a dentist. He has taken several mission trips and has a true heart for helping people in other countries achieve better oral health. His dad is a physician and his mom is a nurse, so he has had a great deal of exposure to health care. Despite all that he has seen –– or maybe because of it –– he wants to serve the underserved through dentistry.

Alissa is aiming to become a veterinarian. The sophomore has a passion for animals and their roles in our lives. Specifically, she believes that healthy animals are significant components in the lives of happy, healthy families and elderly people. She is already doing animal-related research and is devoted to learning as much as possible before veterinary school. Her hope is that all God’s “critters” have access to adequate vaccinations and treatment.

Hanna seeks a career in medical research and knows God will use her to discover something significant that will help poor people in developing countries. A senior, she is pursuing several internships this summer where she will be able to hone her research skills and interests.

Many other students and health care professions were represented on our student panels that day. Most pre-health students desire a career in medicine because they see it as a direct way to make a significant difference in the lives of others. But some are also interested in helping people at different points in health care delivery –– from dentistry to physical therapy to physician assistant to optometry to veterinary medicine. For a lot of these students, it was the first time they stated publicly that a career in health care is their desire and why. I’m sure it was daunting and a little scary.

As their advisor, I was proud and impressed. As a member of the health care-consuming population, I was reassured that there is a wonderful population of students here at Seattle Pacific who are motivated toward health care careers for the right reasons. They simply want to help people, whatever their position in life. They truly want to make a difference. Most identified their faith as a sincere motivation for their choice of career.

When the students were asked questions about their education leading up to their goal, they quickly stated that this was not an easy path. The science classes they take with long labs, and the multiple years of school, deter many. These determined students were willing to stand in front of the entire SPU community on a day dedicated to “hope” and state their goals, their struggles, their aspirations, and their hopes. Trust me, we are all going to be in good hands when an SPU graduate is our physician, dentist, physical therapist, optometrist, pharmacist, nurse, physician assistant, or veterinarian. Thank God for such hope in the future!

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Department Highlights

from the president
President Philip Eaton reminds us that God's promise to “do something new” creates and sustains our hope.

New Leadership
The School of Theology welcomes Doug Strong, Ph.D., as its new dean.

Detours and Unexpected Destinations
Samuel Lin ’65 was named SPU Alumnus of the Year for a lifetime of service.

Oh, So Close
Falcon women’s soccer had 23 straight wins in 2007–08 season; was in Final Four.

my response
Poetry by Emily Dickinson
SPU Professor Susan VanZanten Gallagher on Emily Dickinson’s Poem #314 and “Hope.”

Response art
The Advent of Breathing
SPU Professor Christen Mattix on “The Advent of Breathing.”