Moving his education online during the COVID-19 crisis provides a much bigger challenge for Jared Hendren than it does for many other college students. The former Redbird baseball athlete and current Southern Illinois University (SIU) School of Medicine student is in his second year of medical school, when future doctors usually are paired up with a physician mentor and gain clinical and face-to-face practice with patients. To keep students safe, this experience was canceled mid-semester and moved to remote teaching and learning.

“We are not allowed in the hospital for our safety which prevents us from seeing patients,” said Hendren. “We still do online cases for our tutor group meetings, but I definitely feel rusty when asking history questions and recalling which physical exams I would perform.”

The changes also include taking two important second-year exams, the Objective Structured Clinical Examination (OSCE) and Clinical Competency Examinations (CCE) online, with a telehealth standardized patient (SP) remotely. Telehealth uses virtual technology to diagnose, monitor, educate and treat patients. For the outgoing and talkative Hendren, communicating with a patient via the computer is quite a big difference from seeing a patient in person.

But Hendren feels confident that his Illinois State education and time as a student-athlete has prepared him to face the challenges of remote learning and the heavy demands of medical school. Hendren earned his Bachelor of Science degree, majoring in mathematics, in 2016. As a Redbird baseball student-athlete in the 2014-2016 seasons, he played primarily in the outfield and was known for his speed on the field, ranking second in stolen bases his senior year.

Hendren was also named to the Missouri Valley Conference (MVC) and AFNI Honor Rolls multiple times and achieved the MVC Commissioner’s Academic Excellence Award in 2016. The LeRoy-native transferred to Illinois State from Heartland Community College along with his twin brother Jacob, both earning a spot on the Redbird team. At Heartland, he earned All-Midwest Athletic Conference Second Team accolades and played two years for the Hawks.

“Athletes constantly have to make adjustments to be successful in their sport, and (COVID-19) is certainly a big adjustment for a lot of people. Being successful in medical school requires leadership, teamwork, work ethic, responsibility, and discipline among other qualities,” Hendren said. “You need those same qualities to be a college athlete, so I was very prepared in that regard when I got to medical school.”

For the math major, it was his love of science classes and the direct impact he will have on others that led him to his career path. As for his medical specialty, Hendren said most medical students make that decision during their third year when they spend most of their time at a hospital. His interests lean toward general, cardiothoracic or orthopedic surgery. He’s also interested in learning about lung pathologies and the gastrointestinal intestinal system. As the COVID-19 situation unfolds, Hendren is sure to face future challenges in his career path.

“My head coach, Nate Metzger, at Heartland used to always say ‘get comfortable being uncomfortable’ and former ISU head coach Bo Durkac used to always say ‘control what you can control,'” said Hendren. “Despite all these changes, I know what I need to do and what I can control. I can control my effort and attitude each day, and I get my work done so that one day when I’m the doctor and patients trust me to help them, I will know as much as possible.”

As for the prospect of a spring and summer with no baseball, the lifelong St. Louis Cardinals fan said, “It’s too bad there’s no baseball, I sure miss the Cardinals beating the Cubs.”