Todd VanKerkhoff ’13
Internal Medicine Resident
Northwestern Memorial Hospital
Wheaton Major in Applied Health Science
Currently lives in Chicago, Illinois
"My high points have been the times when patients have thanked me for taking extra time to listen, explain a plan of care, or walk them through difficult decisions. These moments of gratitude help to affirm my sense of calling."
As an internal medicine resident at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, Todd VanKerkhoff ’13 spends long shifts assessing patients, developing plans of care, collaborating with consulting specialists, and teaching medical students. When VanKerkhoff arrives home, he triages with a different crew—his daughter Ellie and his wife, Julia Carey VanKerkhoff ’13, who works for LinkedIn and is pregnant with their second daughter.
Although his medical education at Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine has prepared him well for the rigors of medical residency, VanKerkhoff has also drawn from knowledge and skills first learned at Wheaton College.
Lessons learned in his Bible, Theology, and Christian Education classes have proved invaluable to his life as a physician. “They helped to shape how I understand questions of human purpose, dignity, suffering, death and hope—questions that healthcare professionals and patients engage with every day,” he says.
“Being a good physician requires effective communication with a diverse team of nurses, social workers, students, consulting physicians, as well as with patients and their families—many of whom are going through the hardest days of their lives,” he says. “I am learning that grace, patience, and compassion do not always come naturally to me—I must rely on Jesus for these.”
In the last few months, he’s found himself increasingly relying on God’s grace for help as he interacts with patients, their families, and the healthcare team—especially on tough weeks when exhaustion starts to eat away at his patience.
Although those interactions can be some of the most challenging, VanKerkhoff also says that they are the most rewarding.
“Professionally, my high points have been the times when patients have thanked me for taking extra time to listen, explain a plan of care, or walk them through difficult decisions,” he says. “These moments of gratitude help to affirm my sense of calling.”