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Wingert blends anatomy, faith in inspiring next generation of physician assistants

Kim Chaudoin | 

Wingert in the anatomy lab

Cindy Wingert, second from left, in the School of Physician Assistant Studies anatomy lab.

When Cindy Wingert walks into the anatomy and physiology classroom or lab to conduct a lecture, she views the moment as much more than the transfer of knowledge to students on the parts and inner workings of the human body. 

She sees it as an opportunity to inspire her students to discover the intricacies of the human body and how all of us are  “fearfully and wonderfully made.”

“For me, every day is framed through the lens of  Psalm 139 — WE are fearfully and wonderfully made. What a privilege it is to point students to that truth and discover the artistry of God through the study of his creation - the human body,” says Wingert, assistant professor in Lipscomb’s School of Physician Assistant Studies. “My intention is to provide my students with a strong foundational understanding of the inner workings of the human body thereby equipping them to carefully evaluate their patients so as to provide not only exceptional medical care, but also care for the beautiful soul that God created. THAT is the unique aspect of what we do here at Lipscomb!”

“From the first time our students interact with a ‘real’ patient, I want them to remember the unique opportunity that they had to learn from their ‘first’ patient, the human body donors that selflessly gave of themselves and in so doing, gave the gift of education,” she continues. “Then they are able to be a good teacher to their patients in explaining what ‘normal’ is so they can understand the abnormal that their patients are experiencing.”

Students in Lipscomb’s School of Physician Assistant Studies have a unique opportunity for hands-on anatomy education in an on-campus anatomy lab that features cadavers, which Wingert says is not a resource that is always available in other programs due to facility and ongoing maintenance costs. That, too, provides lessons that go beyond the physical aspect of the human body. 

Cindy Wingert headshot

“I tell my students that this is your first patient and that the difference between your living, breathing patient and the human donor in front of them is just one breath. In the lab, it can be easy to lose sight of the histories, the stories of the lives of the individuals that lay before you. But, I want my students to always remember that the gifts of these inspirational and remarkable individuals live on. They live on in the legacy of their lessons as they share their most vulnerable self with us, their students,” Wingert explains. “I believe that bringing that lesson forward into the clinical environment will help my students approach each patient with compassion and a deep respect for human dignity. Because in reality, one breath prior, these individuals were very much an alive patient that my students might have been caring for.”

“I try to begin their experiences in PA school by teaching them some of those aspects … that just because that donor isn't interacting with you in an eye-contact and verbal way they are still very much your teacher and very much your patient,” she continues. “I see that as a tremendous learning opportunity to steward the gift, because it is a gift. Somebody made this very generous donation of their body and it is a wonderful opportunity for our students to cultivate respect for the dignity of their patients. I see that as real stewardship.”

Wingert says being able to explore how faith is related to “who we are as clinicians” is a benefit of a health care program in a Christian higher education setting. 

“I see learning as a tool of worship,” she says. “God has given us the capacity to learn and explore his created order. It is such a privilege to be able to guide our students in that.”

For Wingert, being on faculty at Lipscomb is the fulfillment of a dream as she sees her work as a calling. With over 18 years of teaching experience, Wingert joined the Lipscomb faculty in summer 2020 following a faculty appointment at The Ohio State University College of Medicine and 14 years as full time faculty at Cedarville University. While she says she enjoyed those experiences and grew tremendously professionally, she felt drawn to the mission of Lipscomb. 

“The mission of Christian higher education has always been where my heart is,” admits Wingert. “I have always loved Nashville and was familiar with Lipscomb. I saw the unique niche that Lipscomb had with its commitment to excellence in medical education, and education in general, flanked by a commitment to cultivating  individuals who want to go out and serve in their local community and the world. That was just the  place that I wanted to be!”

Wingert at Barefoot Republic Camp

Wingert volunteers as an archery instructor in the summers at the Barefoot Republic Camp.

Wingert fell in love with the Nashville area when six years ago she began volunteering for two weeks each summer at Barefoot Republic’s camp. The mission of the Franklin, Tennessee-based Barefoot Republic is to facilitate Christ-centered relationships between individuals from diverse racial, cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds through an equally diverse platform of artistic, athletic and team-building programs, which is walked out each summer with a series of camps for children.Though she has served in a variety of roles, Wingert is a Level 1 certified archery instructor and teaches those skills to campers. 

During the summer of 2018, a family friend introduced her to a family friend, Jim Arnett, retired Lipscomb professor, and Kent Gallaher, associate dean of the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences at Lipscomb. Over the course of 2018 and 2019 Wingert stayed in touch with Gallaher to inquire about possible faculty openings in biology. While there were no openings at that time, Gallaher promised to keep her information on file. In May 2019, Wingert presented at the  Human Anatomy and Physiology Society’s annual conference in Portland, Oregon, where she met Jill Kirby, assistant professor of biology at Lipscomb. 

“She walked over to me and introduced herself, I looked at her name badge and it said Lipscomb University,” recalls Wingert. “Tears began rolling down my cheeks.  I still get emotional thinking about it today. I told her, ‘you would have no way of knowing this, but I feel so called to Nashville, and I would love to work for Lipscomb some day.” 

In January 2020, Wingert received a call from Stephen Heffington, former director of Lipscomb’s PA School. “He told me that he was given my name by Dr. Gallaher and that he was looking for an anatomist for the new PA program. He wanted to see if I was interested in interviewing for the position,” she says. “At the end of April 2020, Lipscomb offered me the job and  our family moved to Nashville in July of last year.”

My intention is to provide my students with a strong foundational understanding of the inner workings of the human body thereby equipping them to carefully evaluate their patients so as to provide not only exceptional medical care, but also care for the beautiful soul that God created. THAT is the unique aspect of what we do here at Lipscomb! — Cindy Wingert

Wingert says she is happy that God’s plan finally led her to Lipscomb. Today, she teaches anatomy for PA1 students as well as physiology and pathophysiology courses, is on the board of the Human Anatomy and Physiology Society, and serves on the PA School admissions committee. But she continues to dream about how to blend her passion for serving others with her passion for training the next generation of health care providers. 

“If there is one thing that I have learned in my 18 years of teaching and volunteering, it is that WE are all connected! Every one of us brought together because of a need. My dream is to find a way to bring together the needs that I am aware of in the Nashville community with the hope of physical and spiritual healing. In part, because of the small component of the medical education that I am so privileged to provide,” explains Wingert. “Lipscomb has a rich history of serving the community and here we have access to individuals who are being trained to meet all kinds of needs. Specifically, in the PA program, it is a health need. I ask myself everyday - how can I be a bridge for healing? God, if I open my hands a little wider and my heart a little deeper... will you lead me in that direction? That's my dream.”

Learn more about Lipscomb’s School of Physician Assistant Studies.