By Rev. Michael J. Sheeran, S.J., President, AJCU
Ignatius and his first followers made a point of visiting those in hospitals. It was part of a Jesuit’s formation, and part of a Christian’s mission to the suffering. Many a Jesuit, in this time before the discovery of bacteria and antibiotics, lost his life in this ministry to the sick.
During the 20th century, as the practice of medicine and the role of the nurse became scientific, many American Jesuit colleges and universities found a special complementarity in training medical professionals, while helping these same students to understand that their presence to the sick could be an embodiment of Christ’s love. Over the years, Jesuit programs of nursing, physical and occupational therapy, and medicine have become commonplace.
In my many years as an administrator, I’ve been impressed again and again by people I meet for the first time who say, “There’s something special about your school’s nurses who took care of my mother in the hospital” or, “the doctor from your medical school who spoke with us in the emergency room had a sense of our pain that I just wasn’t expecting, as he explained with compassion our child’s injuries after a car accident.”
I think that what goes on in our programs is more than just imparting a high quality of professional knowledge, and more than just developing a well-trained bedside manner. Instead, it’s expertise expressed with compassion, a sense of mission that turns professionalism into the vocation of being Christ to someone in need.
I’m delighted that this issue of Connections features some of the programs in medical education at our schools. It’s a helpful reminder that real Jesuit education offers not just information but transformation, and provides a preparation which goes beyond competence to commitment: the commitment of being a stand-in for Christ to others.
Please note: In light of the ongoing fluctuating situation on Capitol Hill, we will provide a comprehensive analysis of the impact of the Higher Education Act (HEA) reauthorization on Jesuit colleges and universities, and the tax bill reconciliation process in the January 2018 issue of Connections. Meanwhile, regular updates of the negotiations, as we learn of them, are being passed along to each AJCU member institution’s representative for federal relations.