Expanding the Healing Gifts

Pro Deo et Humanitate. Within these four Latin words lies the mission and purpose of Gardner-Webb University and the backbone of Christ-centered faith. Pro Deo et Humanitate: For God and Humanity. This call to service – this divinely inspired quest to impact a world that desperately needs a healing touch both spiritually and physically – is a key motivator behind the eventual establishment of the College of Health Sciences at Gardner-Webb University.


As the concern over healthcare options for citizens continues to rise, university officials are working on solutions to better meet the needs of an underserved rural population and increase the number of primary care physicians and physician extenders entering and providing services in the rural marketplace. Laying the groundwork for academic infrastructure that addresses these concerns is the next logical step, which leaders say builds on an already exceptional series of health-focused degree programs at GWU.


“The idea behind a College of Health Sciences and the programs within it emanates from the mission of our University,” said Matt Walters, director of executive communications and special initiatives. “We will intentionally recruit students with a passion for primary care and then place those students in rural, inner city, and underdeveloped country clinical rotations, and many of them will choose to serve in those communities after graduation.”


Initially, both new and existing health-focused degree programs would be included within a future College of Health Sciences. The stellar reputation of the GWU School of Nursing and the excitement surrounding the launch of the new Physician Assistant (PA) and Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP) programs are elements that officials say will aid in establishing the new college. Additionally, the door remains open for other training opportunities including speech, physical and occupational therapy programs.


Dr. Gregory Davenport will direct the GWU Physician Assistant (PA) program, which will train medical professionals for the primary care field. As a physician assistant with a doctorate in health science, his approach will teach the fundamentals of the PA profession—diagnosing and treating common medical conditions under physician supervision.


“Our goal is to get PAs back into that primary care arena, and help close that gap between access to care and patient demand,” Davenport said. “We aim to expand the healing gifts that Gardner-Webb students already possess.”


The GWU Nursing program is one of the most comprehensive in the region. The School of Nursing offers six nursing degree and certificate options and plans are underway to add a seventh, the Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP) curriculum. Dr. Susie Beck-Little is the dean of the School of Nursing and believes the addition of the FNP degree positions the University to meet the growing needs of the underserved rural community.


“The prospect of offering the Family Nurse Practitioner Program as a part of our existing Master of Science in Nursing Program is truly exciting,” said Beck-Little. “We strive to meet community needs for healthcare providers and the FNP graduate will extend nursing services to our community at a new and much-needed level.”


The impact of the eventual College of Health Sciences will be measurable through an increase in preventative primary care, which officials believe will ultimately lead to a decrease in premature death rates from a variety of maladies. “Greater access to preventative care has been linked to lower mortality rates from cancer, heart disease, stroke, and a number of chronic diseases,” said Walters. “That means our graduates won’t just be healthcare providers. They will save lives.”