Molecular biology professor called to serve her rural community with lessons inspired by medical school curriculum

Accepted as a candidate for ordination as deacon in United Methodist Church, Dr. Wilcox anticipates a 'connectional ministry'

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SCRANTON, PA (12/06/2017) Cathy Wilcox, Ph.D., assistant professor of molecular biology at Geisinger Commonwealth School of Medicine, has begun a new adventure born of a call to service. In the process, the service Dr. Wilcox envisions will compliment and extend the educational mission of the school.

Dr. Wilcox says one of the things she values about the School of Medicine is that its mission aligns with the social principles of the United Methodist Church. She has always been very involved in her church and has been feeling called to do more outside the church to serve in her community. In response, she enrolled in the Drew University Theological School Master of Arts in Ministry program.

"Years ago, when I was patient services director at the Lupus Foundation and, facilitating support groups, I had a thought that seemed to come from outside myself -- 'That's a good skill for a pastor.' I had never considered being a pastor, so it seemed very strange. Then, while working at Geisinger Commonwealth and seeing all of the community service faculty, staff and - especially students -- performed, the feeling that I should do more to help people where I live became stronger and more urgent. Some of the things we talk about now in my Religion and the Social Process class at Drew are things Dr. Jen Joyce talks about with students in the Patient Centered Medicine class. The call for social justice in the church is very similar to the patient-centered call of doctors," Dr. Wilcox said.

Putting her desire to act together with her facilitation skills made seeking the MA seem like the right thing to do. Dr. Wilcox said she has been accepted as a candidate for ordination as deacon in the United Methodist Church. She hopes to serve her home community of South Gibson with what she calls a "connectional ministry." "The church in South Gibson serves a rural, relatively poor community with few services. A recent Community Health Needs Assessment showed that the drug and alcohol-induced death rates are much higher than in the rest of the state. Lack of awareness regarding health and food and transportation needs also rank high in Susquehanna County. "I want to help the United Methodist congregations to build relationships and network with other faith groups to address these problems and to connect the community to agencies that can help or establish services, if necessary," Dr. Wilcox said.

Dr. Wilcox has just begun Drew's program and leaves her home at 5:30 a.m. every Tuesday to drive two and one-half hours to Madison, New Jersey to follow her call. "I've just started," she said. "At the end of this semester, I'll have seven and a half credits. But I feel better now. I've let God work it out and know I am on the right path."