Adams State Exceptional New Alumnus serves others through medicine

(09-15-2014)

A deep commitment to service has guided the path of Dr. Julian Maendel '07. He is this year's Exceptional New Alumnus and will be honored at the Adams State Alumni Homecoming Banquet, Friday, October 10. The dinner begins at 5:30 p.m. in the Student Union Building first floor banquet rooms. Tickets are $25 per person and may be reserved by calling 719-587-7609.

Intent on attending college, but unsure of a career field, Maendel came to the San Luis Valley to volunteer at La Puente (homeless shelter) in 2002. He entered Adams State in 2003 and met his future wife, Amy Van Dyck '07, on an Alternative Spring Break service trip to Mexico with the Newman Club.

Maendel majored in history with a minor in chemistry and took pre-med prerequisites. He graduated from University of Colorado School of Medicine in 2011. He's now in the third year of a five-year general surgery residency program at New Hanover Regional Medical Center in Wilmington, NC.

But history still attracted him, so last year, while simultaneously conducting medical research, Maendel began a master's degree in history at University of North Carolina - Wilmington.

"During that year away from clinical medicine, I found I missed operating, along with the daily diagnostic challenges of surgery. This reinforced my career choice in the face of other interests." History wasn't the only field competing for his attention - he's also worked as a mechanic, which parallels surgery. "Both combine mental challenges with hands-on work, and bring with them the satisfaction that comes with fixing a problem."

Maendel ultimately chose medicine because, "It allows you to make a difference in people's lives when they are physically and emotionally the most vulnerable. I am thankful for the support I received at Adams State and from others on the way.

"I first considered a career in medicine during my time at La Puente," Maendel recalled. "At the shelter, you have your pick of medical problems. People have trouble with access to care, and the valley has trouble retaining doctors. I thought one way to address this would be to go into medicine myself."

He thinks the seed for a medical career was sown in childhood, when both he and a brother (he is the youngest of 10 siblings) suffered brain tumors. While Maendel's tumor was benign, he underwent surgery at age 8 to alleviate seizures and for a short time was unable to speak.

Maendel's multiple interests were nurtured at Adams State. He appreciated the instruction and advising of Dr. Marty Jones, Emeritus Professor of Chemistry, Dr. Christy Miller, professor of chemistry, and Dr. Benita Brink, professor of biology and pre-med advisor.

Initially drawn to European history, Maendel said "Classes with Dr. McDaniel [Emeritus Professor of History] made U.S. history and government both engaging and relevant. It was a particular honor to have him nominate me for this award. He was encouraging and interested in my future. He was also an example of how to live in a way that makes a positive impact on others."

McDaniel said, "Julian first came to my attention in the American Revolution and Federalist Era class, in which he turned in a graduate quality essay comparing the Declaration of Independence with the Constitution. I remember asking him to meet with me to discuss his plans and suggesting he consider pursuing a graduate degree in history. He thanked me for the confidence in him, but advised that he was intent upon getting an M.D. and becoming a surgeon."

Maendel was an AS&F (student government) senator during his last two years in college and also got involved with Tri-Beta (biology honor society) and Model U.N. "That was awesome," he said, recalling the group's visit to Venezuela. "At that point, there was a lot of tension between Venezuela and the U.S. It was a broadening experience for all of us; it exposed us to a different culture and new perspectives."

Once his residency concludes in 2017, Julian and Amy Maendel hope to return to Colorado, "ideally a small town."

"We fell in love with the valley and made a lot of good friends at Adams State, church, and La Puente," he said, noting he appreciates the outdoors, as well as the slower pace, friendly people, and diversity of Alamosa.

By Julie Waechter