Catholic Health Ethics Association launches at NDSU

by Emma Hergenroeder | St. Paul Newman Center Campus Minister

Emily Zikmund, president of the new Catholic Health Ethics Association at North Dakota State University. (submitted photo)

This semester marks the launch of a new initiative at St. Paul’s Newman Center in Fargo. On Sept. 20, Emily Zikmund, a Junior Nursing major, gathered a group of her fellow students in the Newman Center’s student lounge for the inaugural social of the Catholic Health Ethics Association (CHEA). Zikmund is the first president of this new student organization at North Dakota State University, which gained official status at the school in September.

It’s been a long road. Emily and her sister Abby, who graduated from NDSU in May, spent the better part of the 2017–18 academic year laying the groundwork to launch CHEA this semester. The idea of this student organization was a dream of the Newman Center for several years before that.

“It’s Father Cheney’s brainchild,” said Emily. “We were presented with the opportunity to take this from an idea or a hope and concretely make it into something. Abby and I started on the nitty-gritty… to bring it out to the student body of the campus.”

CHEA falls under the bisonCatholic Wellness Program, which is housed in the Parish Nurse office at St. Paul’s Newman. The Wellness Program promotes the health and well-being of the NDSU student community and upholds principles of holistic health: body, mind, and spirit, integrating faith and reason. The Catholic Health Ethics Association will be the active agent on behalf of the Wellness Program in building community, providing educational opportunities, and facilitating collaboration between students and medical professionals in the area. CHEA will support students in the health sciences and related majors as they grow in virtue and integrate their chosen fields with the practice of their faith.

These students will also have access to resources in order to become educated on hot-button issues in the medical world. As an organization, CHEA will inform students on the campus of NDSU about recent developments in health-related fields and provide education about ethics, medicine, and healthcare in relation to the teachings of the Church. Over time, Zikmund plans for CHEA to sponsor a variety of events at St. Paul’s Newman Center and on campus at NDSU, ranging from guest speakers to blood drives.

Dr. Paul Carson, the faculty advisor for CHEA, understands the clear need for an organization like this in today’s world.

“Health care is frequently on the front-line of challenging ethical issues being debated in our country today,” he said. “It is likely that most of our health professionals at one point or another will face patients who are struggling with beginning and end of life issues, or issues around human sexuality. Our faith has much to say on how the human person can best flourish through these issues and how human dignity must always be upheld. This often puts the healthcare provider at odds with current cultural trends, and often leads to faithful Catholic providers feeling a bit lost or alone and sometimes even in fear for their jobs. Having this association, where these issues can be discussed and explored in light of solid Catholic teaching, is a great way for these young professionals to learn from others who have gone before them, and realize they are not alone and that they have resources and colleagues to fall back upon.”

Zikmund is looking forward to the future growth of CHEA.

“This is the Lord’s work,” she said. “We have a really good foundation, and if we continue to build on that I feel like our future will be very prosperous. To be able to give back to the community in a way that medically benefits others one day would be fantastic.”