Nothing beats starting a trip the day we lose an hour from Daylight Savings Time, but I did manage to haul myself out of bed and make it to our shuttle bus to Chicago on time. Around noon, we checked into our hotels, freshened up, and then headed off to Second City, where we had a keynote presentation from Dr. Scot Morris ’91. He’s a prominent optometrist who was the chief editor of a major optometry journal and the founder of his own company that develops new technology for the eye care industry. It’s an insane resume, but still, going into his talk, I didn’t think that much of what he had to say would apply to my interests.
Boy, was I wrong.
First off, let me say that Dr. Morris is an incredibly dynamic speaker who knows how to engage with an audience. He spoke to us for over 90 minutes, but it felt like it couldn’t have been more than 45, largely because of his humor and his evident passion for improving healthcare as a whole. During his presentation, he discussed how the healthcare field is incredibly vast, comprising of thousands of behind the scenes jobs that all fall under the umbrella of healthcare providers. While it’s an enormous industry, however, it’s also a fundamentally broken one. I’ve heard some debates surrounding healthcare insurance and universal healthcare, but to learn that the United States’ system consistently ranks 37th out of 55 industrialized nations, despite spending the most on healthcare, was shocking to me. Limited access to basic services, unnecessary procedures that doctors have to perform just to avoid getting sued, and patients’ lack of control over their own health records are just some of the concerns that Dr. Morris described. And unfortunately, big food companies, pharmaceutical corporations, insurance agencies, and other sectors hold incredible power over public policy, which ultimately hurts advancements in medicine and access to affordable medication.
However, for all that’s wrong with healthcare, the field is also on the cusp of tremendous change. It was inspiring to hear Dr. Morris talk about 3D printed hearts, personalized drugs based on an individual’s genetic makeup, diagnosing complex illnesses in just a six-question online screening, robotic surgeries, and other futuristic-sounding advancements that are either in development or available already.
I could probably ramble on and on about all the amazing things he mentioned to us; however, a particular line that stuck with me is that healthcare professionals must be both healers and teachers. That is, the current model of healthcare is reactionary, providing healing when something in the body has gone wrong. However, another dimension of healthcare is providing information that patients need to improve their wellness and avoid illness in the first place. Just that idea seems so foreign to us because of how our system is structured, but as someone curious about studying genetic counseling, I believe that advancements in genetics can be the key to guiding personalized, preventative medicine, which is a very exciting prospect to me
Overall, I found his talk inspiring, given his wealth of knowledge in so many different aspects of healthcare outside of his specialty. He mentioned that he has a new book coming out about some of the topics he discussed with us today, and you can bet that I’m adding it to my Amazon list.
Afterwards, we had the opportunity to speak with a panel of recently graduated alums who are in a wide range of graduate programs. I especially appreciated their insights about adjusting to life in a major metropolitan city and how to avoid procrastination, one of my greatest Achilles’ heels. Some of them even mentioned how their graduate programs are even easier than their undergraduate work because of the rigorous preparation they received at Illinois Wesleyan, which gives me hope that there is in fact a light at the end of the tunnel.
Feeling famished, we were all grateful to head downstairs for dinner and chat casually with the alums. Some of them even joined us afterwards to watch a comedy show at Second City, which if you haven’t seen before, you’re definitely missing out. Some members of the troupe we saw tonight came to Illinois Wesleyan to perform, so I thought I knew what to expect, but once again, my expectations were entirely off. They presented a night of entirely new fast-paced sketches that made me almost spit out my water at some points.
Looking back on the day from the comfort of my hotel room, I can’t help but feel exhausted from all we experienced today, and it wasn’t even a full day of the trip. So, while I’m a little nervous about how I’ll fare during our jam-packed schedule tomorrow, I also can’t wait to see how else this trip is going to challenge my expectations. Stay tuned for Day 2!
–– Rachel McCarthy ’21