Seeing the Light at the End of the Tunnel

Edited by: Miranda Weippert

To complete a dissertation and receive a doctorate degree can take a person years of incredibly hard work and stress before it is finally over.

It’s six o`clock on Thursday morning and Bethel University’s Communication professor Jessica Samens climbs onto the St.Paul greyhound bus and heads to Milwaukee, Wisconsin. She hopes to catch a bus back at midnight to make it in time for the class she is teaching the next morning.

This is a weekly journey going back and forth from Minnesota to Wisconsin. However, she isn’t visiting family or seeing the majestic Lake Michigan. Samens is finishing her dissertation and getting ever closer to receiving her doctorate from at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

Samens is focusing on health disclosure, specifically cancer patients, cancer survivors and diabetes patients, to better understand how, why and when they disclosure their disease to others. One part of her research focuses on when it is ok to break the rules and finally disclose their disease. She has found that the more important the  person is to the patient, the more likely the patient will disclose the illness.

Samens explained that the relationship between a patient and the friend (or co-worker) helps determine whether the patient will self-disclose. Since there is often stigma associated with these diseases, the patient is always trying to negotiate the benefits of being open and honest, and the drawbacks of being seen as sick, unable to function appropriately, or just “different”.

According to Samens, “With diabetes many patients feel that they will be seen as one who does not live a healthy life and because of that, that is why they were diagnosed with diabetes. This causes them to delay the disclosure even farther than they wanted.”

By the time Professor Samens is finished with her dissertation, it will be over one hundred pages long. When  asked about her plans regarding her dissertation, she responded with, “I would like to keep teaching with it. I would also like to start designing support groups for illnesses such as cancer and diabetes.”

Professor Samens is looking forward to the end of the hectic and stressful journey. Come December, she hopes to graduate with her PhD, which means the end of this long educational journey is near.

It is a sprint to the light at the end of the tunnel and in the next two months Bethel will possibly have a new doctor on their hands. Doctor Jessica Samens, at Bethel University.

We wish her the best of luck in the next couple months and will be praying for her!