Wayland grad and Technical Specialist for the Mayo Clinic visits with Wayland students

October 11, 2013

PLAINVIEW — Chancey Thompson had some tough but intriguing questions for the Wayland Baptist University science students seated in Moody Science Building Rm. 110 this past Friday.

Thompson, was on campus last week as part of the university’s annual homecoming celebration, and in particular, he and his wife, Marianne (Brome) Thompson (B.S., 2005) were in town so he could speak as part of the School of Mathematics and Sciences’ homecoming lecture series. Traditionally, the school has invited alumni back to campus to talk with students about the career opportunities available to those who are working toward degrees in math and science. Thompson graduated from Wayland in 2006 with a B.S. in biology. He received a Master’s Degree in Molecular Pathology from the Texas Tech Health Sciences Center in 2007 and currently serves as a technical specialist with the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn.

As he talked with the students on Friday, he pitched them a situation to consider. Suppose they could play God, he suggested to them. In that scenario, suppose they had the ability to predispose the physical characteristics of an unborn baby, the parents of which both were deaf. Suppose those parents asked them to make their baby deaf, as well. Would that be ethical?

There was silence for a few moments as the students contemplated their responses, which slowly began to come forth. The general consensus was that it would not be for a variety of reasons, so Thompson took it a step further.

“Is organ donation ethical,” he asked, posing the follow-up question of whether or not it simply is postponing the inevitable, death, for a few more years on earth. Again, is it playing God?

As the silence returned, Thompson moved ahead and made his point. Science is a field that is expanding faster than students and the education process can keep up with and one of the big areas that could be of interest to students from a faith-based university is the field of bio-ethics. Related to that was the field of genetic counseling, he continued, explaining that someone grounded in principle is vital to helping patients and doctors understand the implications of the treatments that now are possible and which are becoming available.

In establishing the ground work for the above discussion, Thompson explained the work that he does at the Mayo Clinic — work that involves robotics, automation and workflow improvements. In particular, he has been involved in the field of genetics, he said.

Thompson was introduced to the students by Professor Adam Reinhart, who teaches biology and chemistry and was one of Thompson’s professors. Reinhart laughed as he recalled that Thompson had come to Wayland from Alaska — with long hair and riding a skateboard, in contrast to the shaved head and neatly-cropped goatee he sported on Friday — on nothing more than the promise from the school of a $500 dorm scholarship.

Thompson acknowledged that he had no idea what he wanted to do once he got to Plainview but he soon found joy and fulfillment in the study of science. As he talked about his interest in science, he introduced the element of his faith and how the two could complement each other.

“To me it made the most sense to study God’s design because it is everywhere,” he said.

Thompson made it through his time at Wayland and decided to go ahead and seek a master’s degree, but he did have one concern — a concern he soon discovered to be unfounded.

“One thing I kind of worried about was, ‘Did Wayland prepare me for work?’ ” he said, adding, “The answer was, ‘Yes, it did.’ ”

From an educational standpoint, Thompson said, his professors at Wayland more than prepared him for competing in the classroom and workforce with students from other universities by giving him the knowledge and training he needed, but also by helping him to develop the kind of critical thinking skills he needed.

That brought him to the subject of bio-ethics and the questions that he posed to the students in Rm. 110. He explained to them that as scientific knowledge and capability continue to expand, it is going to be more and more critical for faith-based scientists to enter the field.

“A lot of bio-ethical questions can be solved by looking into God’s character,” he said.

As Thompson finished his presentation, his wife stood up and made some comments. She received her degree from Wayland in Interdisciplinary Studies, but explained that she always wanted to be a missionary. As it turned out, she continued, when the family moved to Rochester, a city dominated by what she referred to as “Mother Mayo,” she realized her wish had in a way come true.

She described the many opportunities her husband has as he works professionally with other scientists and medical people to bring a Christian perspective to the work. She also talked about her own opportunities as she works and lives in a city where Christians are in the minority.

“We feel like in some ways we are on a mission field,” she concluded.