SXU Alumna Serves as ER Doctor on Front Lines
Saint Xavier University (SXU) alumna Jenna Jurkovic '11, D.O., is hard at work on the front lines, serving the community as an emergency medicine physician at Advocate Christ Medical Center (ACMC). As an attending physician, she takes care of patients in the adult and pediatric emergency departments and teaches resident physicians in training. She is also an assistant emergency medical services (EMS) medical director for the Cook County region. As part of that role, Jurkovic assisted with developing the hospital's COVID-19 response plan and developed ways to transform current hospital resources to ones that would better meet COVID patient needs.
Jurkovic credits SXU for directly contributing to her success throughout medical school, citing the rigor and challenge of her biology pre-health courses as critical. Jurkovic was part of SXU's Honors Program and Tri Beta, the National Biology Honor Society. She also conducted significant research with Professor Randolph Krohmer, Ph.D. "SXU prepared me for leadership and being an attending physician requires a lot of leadership. The rigorous courses and the change from high school level work to undergrad work was quite the challenge, but prepared me for the multiple next steps of entering and completing medical school," said Jurkovic.
"In my 29 years at SXU, Jenna was one of the finest students I've had the privilege to teach, and I was lucky she chose to work in my lab, as she turned out to be as dedicated a researcher as she was a student," said Krohmer. "In the lab, Jenna was always thinking science, assimilating new information and mastering the challenging techniques required to conduct her research. I recall several of her research presentations, given at events like the Regional Tri Beta Conference or the Society of Behavioral Neuroendocrinology annual meeting, and her work was published last fall in the peer-reviewed journal Physiology & Behavior."
One of her favorite things about being a student at SXU was being part of the community, especially being exposed to many different backgrounds and niches. "As a smaller school, SXU really gave me the opportunity for growth. I enjoyed getting to know my professors personally, and I feel the opportunities I got to explore here may not have been available at another institution."
While Jurkovic attended SXU, she worked at ACMC as a patient care associate, and after she graduated, she continued to work there for two years before she began medical school. While in medical school, she served as vice president of her class and received an award for clinical excellence. "The program was very rigorous and incredibly challenging. I couldn't be happier to be there," said Jurkovic.
After graduation, Jurkovic was pleased to be matched with ACMC, not only because she had experience working there, but because she was truly dedicated to the southwest community. "I was born and raised in Chicago Ridge, and it is the most rewarding and humbling thing to be able to take care of patients that are part of my community," said Jurkovic.
Though Jurkovic just recently began her work as an attending physician, she's assimilating well in her transition from learner to teacher, finding the work to be challenging yet stimulating. "With emergency medicine, you're often meeting people on their worst day. Emergencies are always going to exist, but being part of the solution helps to mitigate that. My patients are so important to me and I take care of them like they are my family members," said Jurkovic.
When asked what advice she has for current SXU students interested in entering the medical field, Jurkovic encourages students to determine why they want to go into medicine and ensure they're doing it for the right reasons. "It's extremely challenging, but incredibly rewarding. It's a marathon, not a sprint, and it takes a village. You need a good support system to lean on. Remember to keep the end goal in sight and accept that the failures you have throughout the process will make you stronger," Jurkovic said.
Jurkovic encourages the community to make sure they are continuing to take care of themselves despite the restrictions and risks posed by COVID-19. "I understand people are nervous to go into a health care setting, but people with underlying diseases are still at risk for other things, so they shouldn't stray away from getting the proper health care they need."
Jurkovic has been humbled by the pandemic and works to embody the SXU core value of learning for life. "The health care community has realized it's important for us to be lifelong learners and be malleable and able to adapt when faced with unpredictable situations," Jurkovic said.
As Jurkovic looks to the future, she plans to be the best emergency medicine doctor she can be, and she hopes to continue to play a large role in helping to direct response processes for the pandemic or other future disasters. She also plans to take care of her parents, who were instrumental to her successes, by giving back to them and the community around them.
"I'm incredibly privileged to be where I am. Being a doctor takes a significant amount of dedication and sacrifice, but I'm the best version of myself when I'm taking care of my patients. I would do this career 100 times over again."