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Knowledge, Skills, Virtues: Calvin College Stories

Alumni Vision

Dr. Gary VanderArk '60

Gary VanderArk (right), a neurosurgeon in Colorado, founded Doctors Care, an organization providing medical care to the uninsured in the Denver area. He also helped start the Colorado Coalition for the Medically Underserved, which is working to spread the program statewide.

Alumni Profile: Serving the Underserved

Fresh out of medical school and a few years at Walter Reed Army Hospital in Washington, D.C., Gary VanderArk '60 experienced a culture shock when he began his own practice in Denver in the mid-1970s: “It made a difference if you had insurance or money,” he said. “I couldn’t believe that’s the way it was; it wasn’t supposed to be that way.”

Doctors CareIt no longer is that way in Denver and many other metropolitan areas around the United States, thanks in part to VanderArk, who in 1988 founded Doctors Care, a nonprofit that provides access to affordable health care to the medically underserved.

Over the past 20 years, Doctors Care has provided between $50 million and $100 million in free health care to the medically indigent, and the program has been emulated nationwide.

For his efforts VanderArk was named a recipient of the American Medical Association Foundation 2007 Excellence in Medicine Award, honoring those who strive to encourage the highest standards of integrity, commitment to service, community involvement and altruism in the medical profession.

“We’ve proven that this is a model that works,” VanderArk said. “If everyone does a little, no one has to do too much.”

VanderArk attributes his service mentality to wonderful mentors.

“My father could not drive down the road past a car that was pulled over without stopping to help,” he said. “The people that have had the most influence in my life have always tried to teach me that if you want to be loved, love; if you want to be blessed, bless others. Whenever I’ve tried to help, I’ve always benefited more than anybody else. It always works out that way.”

Alumni Profile: Integrating Faith and Vocation

Sara VanderHaagen '02

Sara VanderHaagen is a 2007 recipient of a Harvey Fellowship, which is awarded for the purpose of empowering students who evidence the passion and ability to lead others as they participate in God’s work to redeem society’s structures.

While a student at Calvin, Sara VanderHaagen '02 was equipped with a “very resilient system of thinking,” she said. “My Christian worldview makes me more intellectually agile; I can welcome other theoretical perspectives and learn from other worldviews.”

VanderHaagen reading a book.This resiliency has benefited her scholarship while she has been pursuing a PhD at Northwestern University. She was recently awarded a Harvey Fellowship to continue her studies. This program seeks to encourage Christian graduate students to integrate their faith and vocation and pursue leadership positions in fields where Christians tend to be underrepresented.

Rhetoric, her field of study, exists at the “intersection of literature and politics and concerns the role of persuasion in public discourse.” In this field, VanderHaagen explained, there is a “significant need for representation of believers in the Christian faith.”

VanderHaagen’s particular interest is how history and memory are constructed. “How people use language to tell stories affects how we remember things,” she said. “Specifically, I focus on how political or social groups in the present use narratives about the past to create cohesiveness and to encourage a sense of agency among members.”

She believes her background can help her offer a unique perspective to this area of study.

“Rhetoricians always analyze and theorize from a particular perspective,” she wrote in her Harvey Fellowship application. “Although their findings may be significant, insightful or progressive, many do not capture the rich complexity of concerns combined in a specifically Christian worldview.…

I know from my own experience and God’s revelation how sin pervades each idea and object I examine. Yet I also have a profound hope that something of God’s image can be discovered and redeemed through conscientious and diligent study.”

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