A Broader Perspective
by Brian Beise
Mark Fields ’00 grew up in Augusta, Georgia. When many of his friends chose Covenant, he considered the possibility for himself. “I played basketball,” he says, “and thought Covenant would be a good place to pursue athletics as well as develop close relationships with the friends I had at the school.” By the end of his four years here, though, Mark’s perspective and way of seeing the world had been altered. Now, as an assistant professor of ophthalmology and principal investigator at the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC), Mark hopes to help bring about socioeconomic change where it is most needed.
In his sophomore year at Covenant, Mark traveled to Uganda with some of his hallmates and Dr. Henry Krabbendam, professor emeritus of biblical studies. Though the trip was only short-term, the example set by Dr. Krabbendam heavily influenced Mark and his plans for the future. “It was certainly a life-changing experience,” says Mark. “I think it is important for any westerner to travel to a place such as this to develop a wider perspective of the world and the challenges that these individuals face. I think I can speak for all the guys in that it opened our eyes to so many things.”
After Covenant he went on to complete a Ph.D. in cell biology and anatomy from the Medical College of Georgia. He earned a master’s in public health and completed his postdoctoral fellowship in retina degeneration and ophthalmology at Columbia University. Now at MUSC, Mark is leading research in cell transplantation as a possible treatment for patients with degenerated retinal cells. “My main function is as an investigator but I do give seminars and talks on my work and lecture residents on varying aspects of ophthalmology and eye disease.”
Mark hopes to address the problem of underserved communities around the world. “These are countries that have been historically marginalized. How do we decrease the cost of drugs and vaccines in order to make them affordable for these countries? How do we find funding for research in areas that many drug companies will not pursue? These are things that MUSC is trying to address and these are areas that I find fascinating. At the end of the day, we are all the same and want the best for our families, whether we live in NYC, Chattanooga or Kampala, Uganda. The challenge is putting systems in place where this can be accomplished. We need vaccinations and proper training of healthcare professionals. These are the biggest challenges these countries face.”
When Mark looks back on his time at Covenant, the trip to Uganda still stands out. “Traveling with Dr. Krabbendam was a great experience and one that I will never forget,” says Mark. “I think his teaching and the trip helped us all develop a broader perspective of the world and become more sensitive to other cultures. Witnessing his dedication and love for the Ugandan people was an education within itself. Now when I think about how I can help from a broader perspective, I can also think how people will be impacted on a personal level. Micah 6:8 sums up the way that I would like to view my life and my desire to influence people through my work: ‘He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.’”