Bernadette (MU ‘91) credits her Jesuit education as a
driving force in her work. “It contributed to my feeling that I have gifts – like everyone does – and have
an obligation to use those gifts to try to help other people.”
Approximately one in 2,000 children has a stroke around the time of birth. And 25 percent of these strokes result in weakness on one side of the body (in some cases causing what is more widely known as cerebral palsy).
That’s a statistic on which Bernadette Gillick, assistant professor at the University of Minnesota Medical School, hopes to make an impact.
Specifically, she’s utilizing 20 years in clinical work as a
pediatric physical therapist and a PhD in rehabilitation science and neuroscience
to identify and test new interventions designed to help stroke-impaired children
increase their motor function.
These new interventions use electric and magnetic currents
to stimulate brain cells in combination with behavioral therapies. The methods
do not require surgery or even sedation.
The place this happens – the Gillick Pediatric
Neuromodulation Research Lab – is funded by such prestigious sources as the National Institutes of Health, and is one of only two labs in the world doing this particular work.
"... Ignatian Spirituality has energized me. I rely on my faith and faith community for strength and so much more." - Bernadette Gillick
Throughout Bernadette’s ground-breaking professional journey,
she has found inspiration through the Jesuits. “I’ve had a wonderful career
that has taken me to several different cities and, fortunately, I was able to
find Jesuits everywhere I went – although it wasn’t even a conscious search,”
It all started when she was growing up. “I thought everyone
had Jesuits coming to their house for dinner,” laughs this niece of Fr. Larry
Gillick, SJ (today the director of the Deglman Center for Ignatian Spirituality
at Creighton University).
Then, studying at Marquette University strengthened the bond
– “through encouragement of service and theological challenge that was incorporated
in being a student there,” she says. “It contributed to my feeling that I have
gifts – like everyone does – and have an obligation to use those gifts to try
to help other people.”
In education and work that followed – at Loyola (Chicago)
and Seattle Universities – and volunteer roles with L’Arche and Creighton’s
Institute for Latin American Concern in the Dominican Republic – she has continued
to feel the Jesuit presence enriching her life.
The furthest her work has taken her – Alaska – also enabled a
way to continue on this path, at the Holy Spirit Jesuit Retreat Center in
Anchorage. “As it has elsewhere, Ignatian spirituality has energized me. I rely
on my faith and faith community for strength and so much more,” she explains.
Today, Bernadette's work has brought her to the Twin Cities of
Minnesota, where she became a member of the Jesuit Partnership Council in 2012.
“Participating on the Council has been a great experience,”
she says. “This group gives me an opportunity to be surrounded by people who
invigorate me and continue to develop my faith. Plus, we have a lot of fun.”
“Supporting the Jesuits is a given for me,” she continues. “Like
most people, I have a specific line of work. I can’t be out there looking for all
the possible opportunities to help people in poverty, or during a natural
disaster, for example. I rely on the Jesuits to do that. They go into the difficult
places, and I trust them to help people in ways that I can’t. So when I’m
called to support them, I know it will be fruitful and appropriated in the best