From training dolphins and humpback whales to becoming the medical director of the Emergency Department at Saint Luke's Cushing Hospital, Dr. Christopher Warholic has been a positive force in his work to help people and animals.
By RIMSIE McCONIGA
From training dolphins and humpback whales to becoming the medical director of the Emergency Department at Saint Luke’s Cushing Hospital, Dr. Christopher Warholic has been a positive force in his work to help people and animals.
His marine biology experience in his undergraduate days came from his belief that he could “save the world by helping improve the environment.”
“I completed an exchange program at the University of Hawaii where I assisted with animal behavior research with bottlenose dolphins at Kewalo Basin Marine Mammal Lab in Honolulu,” said Dr. Warholic. “I then worked as a diver and research assistant on a humpback whale project on the Big Island, where we set up underwater microphones to determine how singing humpbacks were influencing other whales.”
After graduating with a degree in biology, he moved into administration where he moved up the ranks at Duke University and then to associate director of Occupational and Environmental Health at KU Medical Center.
He had always wanted to go into medicine but he questioned his ability to reach that goal because he was the first in his family to go to college. He eventually quit his job and decided he was going to become a physician. Now, with 17 years of post-high school education and many years experience as a doctor and mission work in fighting HIV/AIDS, he has realized his great capacity for reaching goals.
Born and raised in western Pennsylvania, he came to the Midwest for a job opportunity at KU Medical Center and has been here ever since.
“I left my job as associate director of Occupational and Environmental Safety at KU Medical Center and returned to school at KU for their family medicine program in 2003,” says Dr. Warholic. “I was chief resident and completed residency in 2010. During that time, I worked at an underserved clinic on Southwest Boulevard in Kansas City, Kansas. After that I worked at Wyandotte County and Johnson County jails. In addition, I worked at various hospitals doing shifts in ERs in rural Kansas, as well as with OBGYN Dr. Dennis Miller delivering babies for two years before going to work full-time in emergency medicine.”
He says he knows a good thing when he sees it and that’s why he took the job as medical director of the Emergency Department at Saint Luke’s Cushing Hospital five years ago. He loves Leavenworth and the support staff at the hospital.
“We have wonderful support staff and work well as a team,” says Dr. Warholic. “All members are valued for the role they play. We have excellent nursing, tech, lab, radiology, housekeeping, inpatient, rehabilitation therapy, kitchen and maintenance staff. My goal is to provide excellent patient care and to make Saint Luke’s Cushing the best emergency department in Leavenworth County and in Saint Luke’s Health System. ‘If it's not broken, make it better.’ The Midwest has treated me very well and I have made many dear friends here. I love serving the people of Leavenworth. They are wonderful people and have a lot to be proud of. From the local residents to the soldiers on post, there are so many great people, even those that come in from the prisons and those that are just passing through. I love the diversity.”
He also makes time to do mission work at HIV clinics in Cameroon and Kenya.
Dr. Warholic’s volunteer work in Cameroon included setting up a lab and collecting placentas to determine how HIV gets across the placenta to the baby in hopes of one day being able to prevent it. During that time, he worked with a traditional healer and collected samples for Sjogrens research (an autoimmune disease). He has also worked with the HIV population in Kansas City.
“The ability to treat HIV has improved but the risk has not diminished,” says Dr. Warholic. “Education is key. Good fortune allows those who have had good circumstances and luck to objectify and judge others, but we must be compassionate toward others.”
He is also committed to his clinic in Kenya which is part of a girls’ school called the Friends of St. Ann’s Girls School, where young girls are given the opportunity to get a good education and have access to medical care. It serves the entire community. The clinic is a fully operational primary care and OBGYN clinic. Telemedicine is used when needed to consult physicians in the U.S.
His travels around the world have left a lasting impression on Dr. Warholic. He has seen the beauty and differences in the world’s geographical wonders, and unique cultural practices and idiosyncrasies, but he has discovered that in our differences there is a fundamental goodness about humanity.
“We all have the same fundamental core values, hopes and dreams,” says Dr. Warholic. “Our tendency to objectify and demonize others and treat others and the planet as if it is a commodity will be at the expense of our children’s future if we are not cognizant of cause and effect. If we are not cautious, we become people who ignore facts and live in a manner in which we cater to our emotions and ego.”
Drawing on his interest and practice in judo for 15 years, competing nationally and internationally, and with the influence of Eastern cultures and time spent in Hawaii during his travels, Dr. Warholic is currently working on a project, Zen Jitsun, translated as “Techniques in the Art of Mindfulness.” It is rooted in meditation and mindfulness practices, and draws on ancient practices and modern neuroscience.
Dr. Warholic has always been passionate about his profession and his work as a doctor. His path from marine biologist to administrator to physician has landed him, in his estimation, in the perfect job. His advice for young students who are considering a career in medicine is to “know what your purpose is in life, and fill your sails with right intention. Don’t do it for glamour, paycheck or lifestyle, as you will be disappointed. It is an amazing profession. So far, my life has been one big adventure. Who knows what’s next? But I’m always open to the possibility of a new adventure.”
After five years with Saint Luke’s Cushing Hospital, Dr. Warholic remains enthusiastic about the ways in which the hospital is helping the community.
“We have remodeled our Emergency Department (up from five to 12 beds) and inpatient unit,” he said. “Saint Luke’s Cushing Hospital’s leadership has great vision and enthusiasm. We have increased our volume in the Emergency Department by about 25 percent and we have a great group of physicians committed to excellent patient care and patient safety.”
His work as a physician and medical director as well as his mission work have given him opportunities to see the challenges and obstacles that people face around the world, but his work has also given him the chance to help wherever possible.
“I enjoy helping, connecting and caring for people,” he said. “From delivering babies to helping people through the dying process, it is an honor. I think the world is an amazing place and we must live each day like it is our last. We must be grateful every day for all that we have, and we must give back as much as possible. It has been said, ‘each day there is a rain of blessings, it is up to us to put our umbrellas down.’ We must live our lives by our own design, not by default.”