Life, throughout much of early human history, was “nasty, brutish and short,” noted 17th-century British philosopher Thomas Hobbes. To his point, the average life expectancy of a citizen of the Roman Empire was 25, and in 1900, 47 years marked the average American life span.
But then something remarkable happened.
In the early 19th century, advances in public health, vaccinations and new medicines made once-fatal infections preventable or easily treatable. And lifespans started increasing. Now, the average American lives to nearly 80
years of age, enjoying a much higher quality of life.
Modern health care and science hold astounding possibilities and enormous power. But with the possibilities and power come a greater need for social responsibility and call to higher standards of ethical research, management and practice. The marketplace is demanding qualified professionals who possess both scientific knowledge and a strong education in ethics, humanities and management.
Regent University is answering the call by boldly expanding into the health care and science fields. In doing so, Regent graduates will be trained to address critical areas in human well-being and prepared for new career opportunities.
“Regent is aggressively restructuring and introducing new undergraduate programs from biophysical sciences to pre-med to meet today’s needs and prepare tomorrow’s leaders,” says Dr. Gerson Moreno-Riaño, executive vice president for Academic Affairs and dean of the College of Arts & Sciences (CAS). “These programs are designed to provide a holistic education that integrates faith, ethics and science.”
In reviewing the most rapidly growing fields of influence, Regent introduced a bachelor’s degree in biophysical sciences (BPS) last fall. This innovative program features courses in biology, chemistry and math that will position students to enter graduate study programs in medicine, dentistry, pharmaceutical sciences or physician assistant programs. They also can go on to work in fields such as biology, chemistry, technology or public policy.
“The BPS degree is designed to be rigorous to provide the maximum amount of qualifications for different fields so students have lots of options,” explains Dr. Robert Stewart Jr., CAS professor and chair of the new program.
A bachelor’s in healthcare management launched this spring, under the direction of Dr. Joseph Bucci, CAS assistant professor and chair of the Department of Business, Leadership and Information Systems. Topics of study include health care changes, quality management, financial management, organizational leadership and marketing.
With this degree comes a wealth of potential careers including medical services or long-term care administration, community health management, health policy analysis, health promotion, and public health information analysis.
Now in development for fall 2015 is an RN to BSN program to help registered nurses efficiently earn a bachelor’s degree. Also in development are other high-demand STEM-focused disciplines (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math), including computer science.
Regent was recently named a “2015 STEM Jobs Approved College” by stemjobs.com — a ranking that recognizes the university’s commitment to align degree programs with high-paying jobs that are in demand and provide curriculum focused on real-world job requirements.
Each of these new programs will help develop the foundational skills students need to succeed in today’s complex health care and science fields, as well as provide a faith-based understanding of God’s preeminence and the relationship between human beings and nature. Unlike their mainstream counterparts, these courses also will explore God’s world and teach students to respectfully challenge modern science’s conventional wisdom and presuppositions with an arsenal of facts and values.
Without question, our nation and world are facing unprecedented challenges of great concern in science and health care. Among the hottest issues today are topics from stem cell research, human cloning, and physician-assisted suicides and recreational euthanasia to legalization of certain drugs, rising healthcare costs, and the pros and cons of socialized medicine.
Addressing such challenges — and many others that cross into fields of law, government, psychology and counseling, business, pastoral care, and media — with wisdom requires the strong Christian leadership, innovation and academic excellence for which Regent is known.
A recent study in Ethics in Medicine (University of Washington School of Medicine, April 2014) reports that, by and large, people facing issues of life, health and mortality want to address both physical and spiritual dimensions of the issues. It is through science and faith, together, that humans grapple with complex matters of sickness, suffering, death, and even medical research and experimental treatments while searching for hope, meaning and personal value. And it is through the integration of science and faith that moral, meaningful, enduring results can be achieved.
“Regent has been a Christian thought leader in many academic disciplines that directly influence key areas of our culture,” Moreno-Riaño says. “Science is no exception. If there is a field that needs significant Christian leadership and a Christian voice, that’s one of them.”
Regent’s most significant signal that the university will become a leader in the sciences was the construction of a fully equipped, state-of-the-art Applied Science & Ethics Laboratory, which opened in August 2014. Here, students complete lab assignments and conduct research. Integrative seminars completed in the lab also help students apply spiritual principles to the scientific ones they are learning. The lab gives students experience using critical-thinking skills to develop innovative solutions in problem-based exercises. This beautiful facility uses the newest instrumentation and techniques.
Serving others through the medical field is what attracted freshman Anicca Harriot to Regent. Her parents met while serving on the medical team for President George W. Bush, so she was exposed to the medical profession from an early age. “I got to see the way that people who worked in medicine and the sciences got to help other people, and I wanted to have a positive impact on someone’s life the way I saw others do,” Harriot says.
Prior to coming to Regent, she had the opportunity to work as an intern in two prestigious facilities — conducting genetic research at the Smithsonian Institute’s Natural History Museum and stem cell research at the National Institution of Standards and Technology. When she arrived at Regent, she was excited to see similar high-quality equipment in the university’s lab.
“They have done a wonderful job of building up the labs so we will be exposed to the equipment and lab procedures that scientists use elsewhere,” she explains. “It positions us to be successful when
we leave the university.” Harriot plans to pursue her master’s degree after graduation and eventually earn her Ph.D. in biochemistry and work in research.
She says she appreciates the integration of faith that she has experienced in each course at Regent. “That is infinitely important because of the fact that the sciences are a field where God is so often neglected. We pursue science to get a better understanding of the way that God works in our world. Regent is developing scientists who have the potential to show other people the power of God.”
Harriot’s classmate, Jessica Torres-Cedillo, also a freshman, has been impressed by the caliber and approachability of the BPS faculty. Mentoring is an integral part of the program, and students meet with faculty several times throughout the semester to discuss their studies and receive advice about their career plans.
“The professors are really helpful,” Torres-Cedillo says. “They’re not just brilliant and admirable. They really connect and help you understand.”
At many schools, Stewart explains, professors have a huge number of students and rarely take the time to invest in those who may be struggling. “Our philosophy is that we are going to give you all the support necessary to get through all four years because we know once you get there, you’ll have the very same success whether you were very good your freshman year or not,” he says.
The broad-based nature of the BPS program is another aspect that appeals to Torres-Cedillo. Though her tentative plan is to go to a medical school overseas, she is excited that the program equips her for many different avenues.
“It allows me to breathe; I’m not restricted to choosing medical school after graduation,” she says. “Through this program I will be prepared to do even more. There are endless paths.”
In addition to the new lab, another important steppingstone for the university is its articulation agreement with Eastern Virginia Medical School (EVMS) to pave the way for students to enter their master’s programs upon graduation. In a ceremony earlier this year, Dr. Richard V. Homan, EVMS president and dean of the EVMS School of Medicine, congratulated Regent on the promising BPS program and its dedication to providing a holistic education that integrates ethics.
Through the agreement, Regent juniors and seniors may qualify for early assurance of acceptance into five health professions master’s programs at EVMS: Art Therapy and Counseling, Public Health, Surgical Assisting, Biotechnology, and Biomedical Sciences Research. Regent students majoring in biophysical sciences, psychology, business, government, Christian ministry and biblical studies are eligible to apply for admission to the EVMS programs. Whether students choose to pursue a career in medicine, science, education, business, psychology, ministry or politics, Regent’s new science and health care emphases will prepare them to play a vital role in advancing the human condition.
As Regent continues its rich heritage of educating future leaders, it is essential that the university’s new programs connect its Christian mission to critical needs in the marketplace, explains Moreno-Riaño. “Regent has made a deliberate decision to invest in science education to develop Christian leaders who will be prepared to engage and transform the culture through scientific knowledge and Christ-like character,” he says. “Our lab and the science program it supports will serve students who will influence the world for generations to come.”