Dr. James Sheehan, inventor of the artificial knee replacement system, visited Christendom’s campus on October 12 for the college’s popular “Life on Tap” networking series, giving a talk on how to reinvent the healthcare system and be a true leader in today’s society. Sheehan, one of the world’s leading health entrepreneurs, drew over a hundred students, faculty, and staff to his talk, as he encouraged those present to keep their lives centered on Christ in whatever vocation they choose.
“As human beings, we are given two attributes that you really can’t forget. The first is the ability to choose. We all have the ability to choose, and you can choose to do nothing or you can choose to do something wonderful. If you are working with the Lord, then that life will evolve for you, and doors will open. Don’t ignore them when they do open. The second is the ability to dream. We all get these dreams, and sometimes we’re being told by the Lord to do something great. Don’t ignore your dreams, and be truly authentic in your lives,” said Sheehan.
Sheehan, who has founded several private hospitals in Ireland that are run according to Catholic moral principles, began his talk by speaking in depth about his homeland of Ireland, and about his own incredible journey through life. Born in Kerry, Sheehan entered orthopedic surgery at a time when it was still a very crude science. Working with Sir John Charnley, Sheehan helped invent the first artificial hip joint, and began helping people with artificial bone replacements in Dublin. Within 11 years, his waiting list for surgery was five years long, and it had simply become too much.
Lacking the resources to help these people, due to the government cutting down on healthcare funding, Sheehan set out to form a private hospital — the Blackrock Clinic — which is still successfully helping people to this day.
The founding of the clinic, and of two others later on, reinforce Sheehan’s belief that the healthcare system in Ireland, and throughout the world, is in disastrous shape and needs to be reinvented. People need to be cared for and helped at the lowest costs possible, according to Sheehan, but also with the highest quality available.
“One aspect of healthcare that is so interesting to me, is that, in all cases, you can practice Christian virtue there better than in any other area. The importance of faith, hope and love, where better can they be portrayed? Faith in healthcare is so important, because everyone is going to die at some stage, and how important it is that people know that there is a life hereafter. Hope is important as well, and everyone has different hopes. People who only have a short time to live, their hopes are very different than ours, and we must never take that away from them. Finally, love. Where better was Christ’s work propagated than with the sick? He spent an awful lot of his time with the sick, and he spent most of his time healing the sick. If you take that example, than those of us in healthcare have the privilege of carrying on Christ’s work, and must act accordingly,” said Sheehan.
Making courageous choices, such as founding these hospitals, requires strong leadership — the focus of the second part of Sheehan’s talk. For him, leadership is simply to influence one person for the better, helping to ignite their ambition so that they can achieve good.
“People, when they’re excited, there’s virtually nothing they can’t do. For those of you who are moving on to greater things in your life, look at life differently. You’ve been given a fantastic opportunity by your education here, and you must think: ‘how can I lead others in my lifetime to do something really wonderful?’” explained Sheehan.
Sheehan then presented a list of leadership qualities that he believes are essential for young people if they are going to change the world for the better. The first, intentionality, means being focused on what you are doing, rather than allowing distractions to derail one’s life. He further encouraged the students to do something that’s different and groundbreaking, and to take action in their lives.
“Courage is necessary as well. Courage is one of the most difficult virtues, because we all lack courage. We also need humor, along with truth. You need to be flexible. Within your lifetime, you are going to have to change so often, and we all have to change. Finally, there must be a role of the virtues. The virtues must play a prominent role in your lives. With these qualities in hand, you will be able to get up and do something with your lives,” concluded Sheehan.
Before leaving, Sheehan, who traveled with his wife, Rosemary, from Ireland to deliver his talk and visit the campus, praised Christendom and its education, calling it truly inspiring and necessary in today’s world.
“I can’t say how honored I am to have been invited to speak at Christendom. It’s been an absolutely unique experience, and we’re so grateful to Dr. O’Donnell and the faculty for having us here for two truly life-changing days. I never thought in my lifetime that I’d experience such warmth and hospitality, but also to be able to go to Mass in the middle of the day and find the Church full of both faculty and students, to see most going to Holy Communion. This left a huge impression on myself and my wife that we will cherish all our lives,” said Sheehan.
“Life on Tap” is a networking series organized by the college’s career and leadership development office, giving students the unique opportunity to gain valuable insights by bringing successful figures from a variety of different fields to campus to give talks and mentor students. To find out more, or to see videos from past “Life on Tap” events, click here.