From a young age, Jack Weidner always thought that he wanted to be a doctor. Growing up in a family who loves literature, Jack also had a passion for writing and the arts. When looking for colleges, he wanted to find a place where he could have the best of both worlds. For that reason, Jack chose a small liberal arts school and enrolled in the Biology/Pre-Medicine program at Saint Francis University in 2017. He had always thought the purpose of college was primarily to offer job training. Once he came to Saint Francis, he found that college was so much more than that.
Humanities Skills and Scientific Studies
Jack wanted to write and learn about people from another perspective rather than just the medical perspective. He loved writing, the arts, and reading. He chose to switch his major to English while continuing Biology as a minor because he would like to use his knowledge and skills as a writer in order to heal people and environments. With the formation of the School of STEAM and an integration of the arts with the sciences, Jack has the flexibility to shape his major how he wants.
Jack has an outgoing personality and considers himself to be very social, but he had fears that he wouldn’t belong on a college campus or that he would feel lost before he even started college. Once Jack came to campus, even as a commuter, he felt a sense of belonging. The faculty, staff, and students were all very welcoming and kind. Jack also found Saint Francis to be very inclusive. As a returning Sophomore, Jack was asked to give a speech to the incoming first year students at their convocation. In his speech, Jack recalled his fears as he started as a first year student and reassured everyone of the willingness that the SFU community has to help each other. He ended his speech underscoring that, “on this campus you’ll never have to walk alone.”
Coming from a family of doctors, and with a mother struggling with an autoimmune disease, Jack has a strong interest in caring for the sick. Jack says, “I was able to talk to Dr. Cazan about how families deal with compassion as well as how it’s dealt with from a medical perspective.” Dr. Cazan invited Jack to participate and assist in leading a Pre-College Research Academy for high school students titled, Writing Empathy, Learning Compassion: The Emotional Life of a Hospice Health Care Professional. The high school students along with Dr. Cazan and Jack collaborated with the AseraCare Hospice in Altoona, and observed the caretakers on how they think about their emotions and experiences in ways that help them become more compassionate. The class wrote poems, stories, and reflections about the experience at AseraCare to create the Compassion4U website. The website is a self-help platform for caregivers and family members dealing with bereavement. “It’s science mixed with the healing power of literature,” says Jack.
Jack’s dream is to work for National Geographic as a Conservation Journalist, walking into the footsteps of a National Geographic photographer and biologist he admires, Paul Nicklen. Nicklen photographs wildlife inhabiting endangered environments in polar regions affected by human-induced global warming. This quote of Nicklen sums up how Jack feels about his own writing and career goals, "I call myself an interpreter and a translator,” says Nicklen. “I translate what the scientists are telling me.”