Extracurriculars Enrich Experience of Premed Student

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Judah Smith in South Carolina Student Legislature

Judah Smith sits on South Carolina Student Legislature, an activity he considers a highlight of his college years.

As a senior premed student, Judah Smith has gone beyond the classroom to gather information and develop skills necessary for his career.

His freshman year, Smith joined the Premedical Association, which helps students navigate the many experiences and decisions that accompany a medical career. The PMA offers students seminars, forums and advice from fellow members. Additionally, premed students learn how to apply to grad schools and other medical experiences.

Through his experience shadowing, Smith has narrowed down his career interests. “My goal is to become a physician and practice for several years in a specialty such as emergency medicine, family medicine, internal medicine or surgery,” he said. “It’s impossible to find a specialty that checks all my boxes … but medical school is a great place to discover how to prioritize my checklist items based on my passions and abilities.”

Development as a Leader

Smith also wants to be involved in the politics of medicine. “Ultimately, I would love to advise government entities regarding health policy or even run for public office myself,” he said. Other extracurriculars have taught him the leadership skills he needs to reach that goal.

South Carolina Student Legislature

Second semester of his freshman year, Smith joined the BJU delegation to South Carolina Student Legislature. This student-run mock legislature proposes laws that are occasionally adopted by the South Carolina Legislature. In this extracurricular activity, Smith has developed his knowledge of government and policy on the state level. Additionally, he has improved his ability to communicate, organize and lead a statewide student-run organization.

Because of his knowledge as a premed student, Smith writes most of his bills on health care policy. He has addressed the need for more physicians in rural areas and, in general, more primary care providers in South Carolina. “My favorite bill was passed by both the House and Senate in the fall of 2019,” he said. “This bill expanded Medicaid coverage for working families in South Carolina while also providing stricter work requirements for Medicaid applicants that would allow for more efficient use of taxpayer dollars.

“I love being able to use my passion for medicine to improve South Carolina health care. And even though some of my colleagues may approach issues with completely different worldviews, I am encouraged to find a place in SCSL where issues can be debated with respect and civility.”

Smith considers SCSL a highlight of his time at BJU. “Through SCSL I have met some of my closest friends and have shared some amazing experiences traveling to Myrtle Beach or Columbia where we hold our sessions,” he said. “The late nights of counting votes and running from hotel room to hotel room caucusing will be some of my favorite memories.”

Student Leadership Council

Smith’s role as the men’s student body president for the 2020–21 academic year is also preparing him as a potential medical politician. Along with the women’s student body president, he heads the Student Leadership Council, whose members share responsibilities to plan the year’s student body events. “We all have unique burdens for the student body, but we have united under one vision to renew our fellow students in the power of Christ in the midst of the most difficult year we have ever experienced,” Smith said.

Together they plan events at least a month in advance, meeting several times every week. Said Smith: “Sometimes it is hard to balance the roles of a full-time student and president, so I have had to grow in my communication and time management skills. … It is crucial to be organized in order not to waste my time or the time of my team members.”

Despite the time commitment and workload of this leadership role, Smith has enjoyed it. “Serving as student body president is incredibly rewarding,” he said. “I have loved being able to give voice to students in our student-led ‘Renew’ chapels and was thrilled to plan the first-ever BJU Fall Fest this October. It makes me really happy to see students enjoying their experience at BJU, and I value the power to help find solutions to problems that our school may face. Although COVID-19 has presented some huge challenges for my leadership role, I wouldn’t trade my experiences during this time for any other.”

Ministry Through Medicine

Not only does Smith want to influence medicine through politics, but he also wants it to be a ministry. “I believe that medicine opens doors for the Gospel, as we can see in the life of Jesus,” Smith said. “His ministry revolved around His power to heal the sick and through that power He was able to proclaim His power to save mankind from sin and death.”

Medical missions and volunteer work at local crisis pregnancy centers are practical ways Christians can advance the Gospel through medicine, Smith said. He had the opportunity to be on a medical mission trip to Kenya in the summer of 2019. As his public health team counseled hundreds of Kenyan men and women, Smith saw medicine practiced outside of the U.S. for the first time.

He realized that common health knowledge in the U.S is not common everywhere. “Advice such as eating less salt or washing your hands after using the restroom was news to the vast majority of our patients,” he explained. “By providing this education we were able to help reduce the high rates of cardiovascular disease and infectious disease caused by unhealthy diets and poor hygiene.”

Smith also benefited from interacting with Kenyan medical students who translated for the team. “It was amazing to learn from each other during this trip and use our shared knowledge to help patients get the care they needed,” he said.

Additionally, the trip helped Smith better understand medicine in the context of missions. Seeing church leaders share the Gospel with patients individually after receiving treatment impacted him. “Medicine opened their hearts to hear the good news of salvation, and … we saw over 140 of our patients make professions of faith in Jesus,” he said. “Through this trip, the power of medicine and salvation expanded exponentially for me. I would highly encourage any student … pursuing medicine or not to consider a trip like this.”

Smith thinks Christian medical workers can also practically communicate the Gospel through daily actions. “The respect and kindness you show to your colleagues and patients speaks volumes of the hope of Christ that lies in you,” he said.

To learn more about medical missions and other mission trips through BJU, read about the summer 2019 mission teams.

Spiritual Benefit of Extracurriculars

By participating in the extracurriculars he did, Smith has prepared both to succeed in the fields of health and politics and to share the Gospel in those fields. Said Smith: “The skills I have developed through these organizations have enabled me to advance the Great Commission given by Jesus in Matthew 28. Through a combination of success and failure in the roles I have held, I have grown in the desire and ability to make disciples of all nations.

“Jesus told us that He sends us out into a very hostile world, so we must be prepared to conduct ourselves with wisdom and innocence (Matthew 10:16). That is why the experience of a Christian education and the practice in college-level leadership roles are crucial to the success of the Church going forward.”