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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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Mission to med students

Torrison scholarship helped surgeon through medical school

When she received one of the first Torrison Scholarships from the ELCA Department for Higher Education and Schools in 1988, Jane Eskildsen was headed for the University of Nebraska's School of Medicine with a specific career goal: to become a medical missionary.

Before attending Dana College, Blair, Neb., Eskildsen lived in Japan with her parents who are ELCA missionaries. Her grandfather was a medical missionary to China, which inspired Eskildsen's plans. On her scholarship application, she explained her hope of one day providing medical services that weren't accessible to a large portion of humanity.

Those goals — and Eskildsen's faith — helped in her selection as a scholarship recipient.

Martha Torrison established the "Dr. George and Emma J. Torrison Scholarship" in 1988 in honor of her parents. Each year one-time grants of up to $5,000 are given to assist students entering medical school with their educational expenses. Applicants must be ELCA members nominated by an ELCA college president, campus pastor or parish pastor. The scholarship encourages recipients to consider working with incurable diseases.

Twelve years after receiving the Torrison scholarship, Eskildsen is the only general surgeon in McCook, Neb. — population 8,000. Although "it's not as remote as going to a foreign country," she says, "it's an underserviced community."

Since Eskildsen brings surgical care to places where it might not be available, she says she is fulfilling her goals, but "in a different way than [she] envisioned." Eskildsen still considers missionary work a possibility.

Like many medical students, Eskildsen didn't work while completing her education. "Any assistance was very helpful [and] eased the burden," she says.

Her faith offered a different kind of help, says Eskildsen, a member of Our Savior Lutheran Church, McCook, and recorder for the town's Aid Association for Lutherans branch. "You see all kinds of suffering when you're working with sick people," she says, but faith "certainly helps you get through hard times."


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