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Leading Communities


Eric Versluis

Eric Versluis '17 describes his experience performing medical mission work in Brazil this past summer and says the experiences were life-changing.

“For the first month or two, I was assisting in the clinic every day, helping with diagnosing,” he says. “Eventually, I was able to learn enough about Portuguese medicine to help treat minor ailments and assist with surgeries.” Many patients came in with minor issues simply looking to connect with the visitors, he says.

The Grandville native, who is majoring in biomedical sciences and plans to go on to medical school, says he wasn’t sure which direction he wanted to take his education before going to South America. His experiences helped map his course.

“I was able to learn more about myself and what I loved about medicine,” he says. The connections Eric made as a Cook Leadership Fellow in the Peter C. Cook Leadership Academy at the Hauenstein Center made the trip possible.

After he graduated high school, Eric says he was unsure what he wanted to study. Grand Valley was appealing for its variety of options and willingness to help him figure out a plan. Through his resources at Grand Valley and work as an EMT, Eric discovered his love of medicine.

His mentor at the Cook Leadership Academy, Dr. Larry Robson, was also instrumental in that process. Dr. Robson was able to put Eric in contact with fellow doctors and medical students from around the state – including a contact who suggested Eric participate in his mission trip to Brazil.

“I felt drawn to medical mission work,” Eric says. “I’ve always liked helping others, but I wanted to be able to do something concrete – to go to different countries and have something universal that I’ll be able to help everyone with, and our bodies are universal. A lot of places need medicine, and that’s something that is useful around the world.”

His passion for relief work will continue to expand into our local community, as he searches for opportunities to assist the homeless population with basic medical attention.

Eric says donors have made a profound impact in his life by supporting the organizations and work he’s been involved in. “I am extremely grateful to donors because I know the Cook Leadership Academy couldn’t exist without them,” he says. “I wouldn’t have had any of the opportunities I’ve had. I don’t know where I’d be.”

He adds, “I think donors should continue to support the Cook Leadership Academy because it is supporting the most ambitious students at Grand Valley in their endeavors to make a difference in the world.”

Eric hopes to do just that. “I want my Laker Effect to be providing medical mission work in other countries. I really fell in love with Brazil and the different culture, and I’d love to take that impact elsewhere.”