Wisconsin Province Jesuits

Inspired by her Jesuit ties, Bernadette Gillick works to improve the lives of stroke-impaired children.

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Living the Jesuit Mission

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.”

 

Bernadette GillickApproximately 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,” she explains.

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 possible way.”

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