Jake Groenendyk ’14
Washington University School of Medicine, Saint Louis, Missouri. Research fellowship at National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland. Internal Medicine Residency, Northwestern Medicine in Chicago
Current city and job:
Manhattan, NY | Cardiology Fellow, Weill Cornell Medicine
What first interested you in your career? How did you discern your calling?
I arrived at Covenant with some interest in medicine. I wanted to find a way to combine my interest in math, science, and systems with something that felt more directly human than spending time in a lab.
I will always appreciate all of my Covenant professors, but several courses, like Dr. Morris’ Intro to Biology, Philosophy of Science, and Microbiology I remember well to this day. He had such enthusiasm in teaching us how cellular processes are a reflection of God’s delight in beauty. Dr. Zuidema’s classes in organic chemistry also made me very enthusiastic about pursuing a career in the sciences. I ended up doing some research in organic chemistry with Dr. Z which helped grow my interest in doing primary scientific research.
Some of the most effective preparation for a career in medicine were the humanities courses I took at Covenant. Faculty mentors such as Dr. Sarah Huffines and Dr. Jay Green helped me as I was trying to figure out how to combine the “dry” scientific world with the (supposedly) messier human side of things.
Apart from faculty, I found deep friendships and a lifelong community. One experience that continues to shape how I approach illness and patients is participating in a student-organized group who became in-home caretakers for a gentleman living on the mountain who was ill and needed assistance. We began taking shifts to feed and bathe him. This helped me see the deeply human effect physical illness can have on not just the body, but also one’s psyche and community.
What has your career path looked like since graduating from Covenant?
I went straight through from Covenant to medical school. This was in some ways a fairly abrupt shift, as my first few years of medical school felt more focused on building the skills and learning the information I would need to be a practicing physician than on growing as a person. This left me very thankful for the holistic focus on every dimension of a student’s development I experienced at Covenant.
Later in medical school, I was accepted for a year-long fellowship at the National Institutes of Health, where I researched how inflammation contributes to atherosclerosis, and in turn heart attacks and strokes. This strengthened my interest in the cardiovascular system, which prompted my next career steps of residency (in internal medicine at Northwestern University in Chicago, Illinois) and fellowship training in cardiology (at Weill Cornell Medicine in New York, New York).
Looking back now, how did Covenant prepare you for medical school and your career?
After graduating from Covenant, I certainly had the fundamental understanding of how the body works and scientific methods required as a foundation for medical school. However, I was most thankful for how Covenant helped me see the beauty and value of individuals and the importance of not losing that in the day-to-day pressures of healthcare.
How did Covenant impact your faith? In what ways does faith inform your career?
Although I grew up in the Bible belt of the Midwest with a rich faith tradition, Covenant really helped me think about incorporating my faith into every aspect of life—moving towards a faith that was not only intellectual, but shaped my desires and motivations beyond merely my actions.
Being around so many other thoughtful people who were Christians developed my faith and gave me a lifelong community. This was most evident to me shortly after the unexpected death of my mother in 2019; so many people supported me, but my Covenant friends were distinguished by the volume and the intensity in the way they showed up for me. Being part of a strong community continues to be very important to my wife and I. Our friends, many of whom are Covenant grads, have been powerful influences on us for the better—spiritually and intellectually.
Since graduating from Covenant, there are times I have been profoundly disappointed by the American church. About 8 months after I graduated medical school, the COVID pandemic hit. Working in the COVID ICU and seeing the intense suffering of my patients was challenging to my faith. However, it was also a challenge to see how many places in our country viewed faith and science as two opposing camps. Evangelicals and churches were often skeptical about the COVID vaccine, in some cases for reasons which would not hold up to even minimal scientific scrutiny. This was incredibly disappointing to me. In contrast, my time at Covenant had shown me how faith and science complement each other—the rational assumptions of our scientific worldview were historically rooted in an understanding that God acts consistently in our world, and by doing good scientific work, we reflect God’s image. I am convicted that it is not only possible to be both a person of faith and a person of science, but that if someone was only choosing to see one angle—only faith or only science—then they are not seeing the whole picture. I think seeing so many of my brothers and sisters in the church embracing anti-scientific theories and seeing those in the scientific world villify people of faith would have been even more difficult without the intellectual tools and community that Covenant provided me with. I certainly did not forsee these conflicts while a student, or expect that my theology and philosophy of science classes would feel so practically relevant at the opening of my career as a physician.
Additionally, Covenant really made clear to me how imperative compassion is for someone who wants to be like Jesus. Now as I interact with people who are disadvantaged or have been beaten up by life, I find myself more compassionate than before. I’ve seen the importance of how much Jesus cared for the person on the outskirts of society. I entered Covenant with a general sense that being compassionate Christians meant we had to be kind, but Christ-like compassion is so much more than that. I daily aspire to reflect Jesus’ love for the whole person and recognition of how stories and systems affect the lives of individuals; these goals are directly influenced by my Covenant College education.
What advice would you give students who are considering Covenant?
Medicine is a wonderful career and calling in many different ways, but it is a very demanding one. Everyone should have practical experience before they jump into a 7+ (10 and counting for me) year training program after college.
Both the scientific or process-based side and the human side of medicine are so important, so find ways to develop both of those components. Attending Covenant prepared me in this way to think humanistically and interact with people in the world.
Also, attend preview weekend. Preview weekend showed me what day-to-day life is like for Covenant students. I could see the variety of classroom discussion and how people wanted to invest in students outside of the classroom.
My lifelong friendships that began at Covenant have still shaped me years down the road—which is an important part of choosing a college that is often under-considered. I was reminded of this by seeing how many fellow Covenant alumni attending my wedding a few months ago, even nine years after graduation.
Why did you choose Covenant?
All of my younger siblings attended Covenant as well, so I like to joke about starting a family tradition. This isn’t entirely true—my aunt, an alumna, was the one who originally talked me into visiting when Covenant was not on my radar at all. I figured the worst-case scenario would be a weekend out of the Iowa winter cold, so I went to a preview weekend and I had a great time. I was impressed by the strength of the community and the big picture project of what the college was trying to do—a unique combination of rigorous academics and spiritual formation.
What are some fond memories or a favorite story from your time at Covenant?
There are many memories to choose from like going to the Yellow Deli to get a late night granola bowl with friends and just talk for hours, the many Biology study sessions talking about everything from DNA to kidneys with classmates, or being a goofy freshman and throwing bananas down the hallway with hallmates in Second South. But the most prominent memory was traveling to Cambodia and Thailand as part of the Maclellan Scholarship program my freshman year. I made some of my closest friends on that trip, and it was a privilege to experience parts of the world that are in many ways so different from our lives. Specifically interacting with Christians in a place like Cambodia, a country with a horrific history of tragedies, was an incredibly meaningful and powerful experience.
Undergraduate Departments, Majors, Minors, Certificates, Concentrations, and Programs
- Arts Administration
- Environmental Stewardship & Sustainability
- Journalism and Society
- Medical Ethics Consultation
- Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL)
- Art, 2-D Concentration
- Art, 3-D Concentration
- Art, Art History Concentration
- Art, Graphic Design Concentration
- Art, Photography Concentration
- Art minor
- Art History minor
- Biblical & Theological Studies
- Biblical & Theological Studies, Missions Concentration
- Biblical & Theological Studies minor
- Biblical Languages minor
- History of Christianity minor
- Missions minor
- Youth Ministry minor
- Biology, Biomedical Concentration
- Biology, Environmental Concentration
- Biology, General
- Biology, Health Professions Concentration
- Biology minor
- Business, Accounting Concentration
- Business, Finance Concentration
- Business, Marketing Concentration
- Sport Management
- Business minor
- Sport Management minor
- Chemistry, Biochemistry Concentration
- Chemistry, General
- Biochemistry minor
- Chemistry minor
- Computer Science
- Computer Science minor
- Community Development
- Community Development minor
- Economics minor
- Education Studies
- Elementary Education (P-5)
- Secondary Education Certifications through MAT program
- Education minor
- Natural Science, Pre-Engineering Studies Concentration
- English, Writing Concentration
- English minor
- Writing minor
- Coaching minor
- History, Art History Concentration
- Political Science
- International Studies
- History minor
- Political Science minor
- Interdisciplinary Studies with Concentrations
- Mathematics minor
- Music, Church Music Concentration
- Music, Creative Studies Concentration
- Music, General Music Concentration
- Music, Instrumental Performance Concentration
- Music, Music Education (Pre-MAT) Concentration
- Music, Organ Performance Concentration
- Music, Piano Pedagogy Concentration
- Music, Piano Performance Concentration
- Music, Vocal Performance Concentration
- Music minor
- Philosophy minor
- Physics minor
- Pre-Law Studies
- Pre-Medical Studies
- Pre-Nursing Studies
- Pre-Physical Therapy Studies
- Psychology minor
- Sociology, Family Studies & Social Work Concentration
- Sociology minor
- Theatre minor
- French minor
- Spanish minor