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By Steve Edwards ’88

I came to Drury as an undergraduate with some very practical notions. Every class I took was intended to prepare me for my career. I was not interested in the humanities or liberal arts; they seemed impractical. One of the first “impractical” classes I took was painting, which was taught by Jackie Warren. I was offended that I had to take this class. I vividly remember painting a sunset in Jackie’s class using chiefly three colors: orange, yellow and black. Professor Warren showed me that a good sunset can have a thou- sand colors. Today, in Cox Medical Center South, we have a hotel that takes care of the families of critically ill patients. In that hotel, we display paintings created by Jackie Warren. To some, they are just splotches of color and paint. But to many, to those who need it most, they see hope. I learned something more important than merely painting a sunset. Lessons like that at Drury forever changed me.

I have been blessed to work in a healthcare system that employs over 10,000 people, and I see the difference those people make in our patients’ lives daily. I have been privileged to see and hear so many powerful stories about our staff. In the past four years alone, over 16,000 babies have been born in our hospitals. We have performed over 120,000 surgeries and cared for more than 600,000 emergency room patients. We have conducted weddings, celebrated wedding anniversaries, and have even hosted a prom. Our physicians, nurses, chaplains and housekeeping staff have kneeled by the bedsides of tragically ill patients. We have saved lives and we have lost lives. Our staff have the honor of serving patients at these critically important times. To many healthcare professionals, these are sacred mo- ments, and they consider their work a mission rather than a job.

An estimated 10,000 baby boomers will retire today, and every day hereafter for the next 15 years, draining our workforce of highly trained professionals. The impacts on healthcare are compounded because once we become 65 and older, we use three to five times more healthcare resources. So, the challenge is how to deal with a shrinking workforce confounded by geometric growth in demand. Implicit in this is that there will be a nearly desperate demand for qualified healthcare professionals. This becomes a terrific opportu- nity for Drury pre-health majors.

But it takes more than a rigorous dose of science and chemistry during college to prepare someone to become a health professional. The work is incredibly demanding, and most who enter the field do so knowing that it is not easy. We need well-rounded people dedicated to improving the human condition. Drury’s incredibly well-respected pre-health program is bolstered further by the surrounding emphasis on the humanities. This broadens the perspective of Drury students, preparing them not to be just ordinary clinicians, but to be extraordinary.

STEVE EDWARDS ’88 IS THE PRESIDENT AND CEO OF COXHEALTH IN SPRINGFIELD, MO. HE IS ALSO A MEMBER OF THE DRURY UNIVERSITY BOARD OF TRUSTEES.

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