Christendom College

The Value of a Christendom Education in the Medical Field

November 1, 2008

This story appears in the Fall 2008 issue of InstaurareSubscribe today!

Christendom Alumnus Dr. John Paul Jansen is currently completing his residency at the University of Kansas Medical Center, after which time he plans to go into oncology, the branch of medicine that studies cancer and seeks to understand its development, diagnosis, treatment, and prevention.

Jansen, who earned his BA in history from Christendom in 2000, graduated from medical school one year ago where he found that his professors seemed to talk about more things than just science and, often, would espouse principles and philosophies that are not compatible with the Catholic Faith. 

“With my Christendom education it was very easy for me to step back and say, ‘Oh, that does not seem right. Is that true? And if so, how and why?’” 

Jansen says he knows and can explain why abortion is wrong and how to address the end of life issues and why they are so important. 

“I can take a look at the whole person, not just the patient’s physical health. Christendom really helped me, not only in medical school, but as a physician, to see the person as a whole—mind, body, and soul—not just the body, which medicine has a strong tendency to do.”

Jansen believes that his Christendom education completed what was started at his baptism. In his educational journey, Christendom gave him an understanding of the world that is grounded in the Faith.

“You can do more than state the obvious or say something that may sound nice but doesn’t really make any sense,” he said. “I’ve heard fellow doctors say to family members of a patient with no brain activity, ‘At least he’s not in pain.’

“They are not able to see that there is more to life than simply prolonging it and being healthy,” Jansen said. “The purpose of life is to achieve a goal—to arrive in Heaven, to be with God.  When medicine is seen in that light you have something more, because, ultimately, in dealing with cancer patients, I will be the one there, transitioning them, with the priest of course, into the next life. I am there longer and am very much a part of their day at the end of their life.”  

Jansen says that he understands his limitations as a physician and his strengths as a Catholic. “I’m able to bring more to the bedside than just my medications and procedures.”

A Harvard University report indicates that potential physicians need not insulate themselves from the liberal arts, and in some cases may hurt their chances by doing so. The report showed that although grades and academic honors are important for admission to medical school, a student’s choice of major has no bearing. Dean Whitla, director of Harvard’s office of tests, says: “It would be regrettable if some of our students who plan to become doctors felt that they must turn away from their interest in the liberal arts for fear of being rejected at medical school without a premedical major.”  At Harvard Medical School, premed-prepared students do better the first year, but by the third year they fall slightly behind students who majored in the liberal arts.

Jansen is one among many Christendom alumni who, upon attaining their liberal arts degrees from Christendom, choose to pursue careers in the medical profession.  Others include Anesthesiologist Neill Mollard (‘97), Dentist Sam Aronhime (‘93), Nurses Teri Rusnak (‘03) and Jill (Menke) Vander Woude (‘04), and Physical Therapist Joe Soos (‘93).

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