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
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
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
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
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
“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.”
“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.”
Partner Profiles - Archives
Living the Jesuit Mission - Heart Song:
Early in 2013, Grace McGrath realized a long-held dream to visit India. While gaining event more than she imagined possible, she also discovered a new dream: to support the work of the Jesuits educating the poor children living in the northeastern part of the country.
Living the Jesuit Mission - Ignatian Spirituality Project: Ignatian
Spirituality Project marks 15 years of retreats aimed at ending homelessness.