By Marcia Bosscher

Voices: Andrea Van Wyk

In this regular feature at The Well, we hear the stories of women seeking to follow Christ in the university and professional worlds.

A Voice at The Well: Andrea Van Wyk

Current position: Medical Resident at the University of Minnesota Children’s Hospital

Area of interest: Pediatric Medicine

Originally from: Wisconsin

What do you enjoy most about your study?

I have loved the process of discovery starting with anatomy and the cadaver labs where I came to feel that I had see-through skin — that I could “see” how blood flowed under my skin and how nerve messages are transmitted — and through clinical rotations where I could learn disease by studying my own patients and the textbooks of their lives. I have also realized that it is indeed a privilege to get to know people at vulnerable times, to be at the bedsides of people from all different walks of life through the stress of an illness and even the dying process.

What is most challenging about your study?

The longevity of the training. Sometimes I just want to start working part time or take a break and have kids and continue training later, but it’s not always possible.

How does your faith connect with your work?

My faith allows me to see each of my patients as created in the image of God and therefore as beautiful human beings who need to be loved and cared for. It motivates me in my studies both to learn more about God’s remarkable creation and to become a better physician. And it provides perspective — God has called me here and he will provide.

What would you like to ask someone who is a few years farther along in your field?

How does your faith affect the day-to-day busy clinic practice? In our culture, when our instructors train us to keep our faith/religion to ourselves, how do you share the love of Christ? Is our faith reduced to simply being nice to patients? How do we balance loving our patients through actions and loving our patients with words about the hope of Jesus Christ?

 You were in India this past semester. What was your experience there?

Although it wasn’t what I had planned, I ended up doing more teaching than clinical medicine. I taught a pediatric course to nursing students at a mission hospital. I had time to slow down and read, listen, and ponder other people’s stories. Images I carry with me are those of people like a 20-year-old woman who came to the gynecology clinic with complaints of missing her period for the last three months. She had been married just six months before in an arranged marriage and her husband had left her because he believed she wouldn’t be able to bear him any children. She most likely will never marry again as her parents will not be able to afford a second dowry and she now has the reputation of being barren, though this was probably not the cause of her missed periods. And I think of a two-year-old girl I met in an orphanage for children who are victims of attempted infanticide. When a family has a second or third baby girl (or a handicapped child), it is not uncommon for them to poison or suffocate her, or leave her in a sewage gutter because they cannot afford the dowry for an additional daughter’s marriage. Sometimes the burden of the suffering of humanity seems heavier in a country like India.

What are your interests outside of school or work?

My husband Eric, a stage designer and puppeteer; outdoor stuff — hiking, running, kayaking, cross-country skiing; and drinking coffee or tea with friends.

A book you’d recommend?

A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry. A wonderful Indian novel.

What would you like to be doing ten years from now?

Hmmm…maybe living in some sort of Christian community with a focus on service. In the ideal world I would have a little clinic attached to our home where I work with another pediatrician or nurse practitioner or physician’s assistant, and we all work part-time, and patients have a unique experience of coming to a more artistic community or farm for their pediatric clinic. We should dream, right?

About the Interviewer

Marcia Bosscher is the former editor of The Well and now an associate with InterVarsity's Faculty Ministry. Having been married to a professor and sharing life with grad students and faculty in a campus church, she has a deep interest and care for those in the academy. She lives in Madison, Wisconsin, with a golden-retriever mix and a diverse array of lodgers and travelers.