Alum Herb Janssen sees wealth of potential in MSU Texas medical students MSU Texas

Story Andy Newberry
5 min read

It’s been more than 50 years since Dr. Herb Janssen left Midwestern University with a bachelor’s degree. He has served the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center for 45 years, pouring his heart and passion into medical school and patient care.

Janssen is from nearby Henrietta. And he hasn’t forgotten his roots or his belief in the students at Midwestern State University. Wanting to give students at MSU the best chance for success at medical school, Janssen began coming back to conduct mock interviews to prepare students for the next step.

“The workshop we do together coupled with individual mock interviews allows each student to develop his or her skills and overcome some of the anxiety that accompanies the interview process,” Janssen said. “Each individual also develops a personal narrative that allows his or her accomplishments to be accurately described during the actual interview. Watching the student’s interviewing skills increase over time is exceedingly rewarding.”

It's been a rewarding experience for MSU Texas students. Christopher Hansen, Associate Professor and Chair of the Department and Chemistry and Physics, admires how Janssen “adjusts his interview style to what he thinks the student needs to learn more about.”

 “He does this on his own time,” Hansen said. “He runs them through the process and teaches them proper interview etiquette right down to how to shake a hand. His support for our students has been immense, and I, for one, cannot thank him enough.”

One of the best student interviews Janssen references was a young student who was asked about his volunteer work. “He told me, I came to MSU and volunteered at Goodwill, where I take the clothes and wash them and size them. It’s one of the most boring things, but I’m still doing it. And then two years ago, I started coaching at the boys club. We start at 3:30 p.m. and go to 5 and that 90 minutes seems like 10. I leave enthused and happy and can’t imagine they’re getting more out of it than I do. And then for two years, I’ve been blessed to volunteer in a doctor’s office. In the first six months, I cleaned exam rooms. For the next six months, he let me show patients to the exam room and take blood pressure and height and weight. Recently, the doctor invited me in when he was discharging a patient. He asked the patient if he had any questions, and then he looked at me and asked if I had anything to add. To be included in the discussion was better than a $100 bill.”

The lesson Janssen is trying to pass on is that every student has an important story. “What I learned from this student was that he volunteered at a place he knew was important, and even if it was boring, he didn’t quit. He volunteered at the boys club, and that was fun. And the second is that he was trustworthy. The doctor who knows him trusts him. And he wasn’t trying to be a hero the first day, he was willing to earn his wings. I see that at Midwestern more than a lot of other schools.”

Janssen is a four-time Teacher of the Year for Medicine at TTU Health Sciences Center. He has published two books and 67 abstracts and won countless other honors. But none of that drives him.

“Education is not about the school, the material taught, the professor, or the prestige of the university — it is about the student,” Janssen said. “Obviously, each of the factors mentioned also plays a role – but only to the extent that they impact the success of the student. Awards and honors are hollow if they cannot be directly related to a positive student outcome. I applaud MSU for concentrating on student success and feel I have carried lessons learned as an MSU student with me throughout my career. I hope I can help continue the emphasis MSU places on student achievement by working with Dr. Chris Hansen and others involved in the pre-professional program.”

Volunteer work is something he hopes all students begin right away.

“As an alumnus – I admit a bias — however, I feel the smaller campus atmosphere at MSU helps each student gain experiences that will be beneficial in professional school, and later as a practicing professional,” Janssen said. “This includes self-reliance and the ability to ‘get up after falling down.’ I encourage each student to evaluate his or her accomplishments as an MSU freshman and actively seek out experiences that will make them a more competitive applicant. Sometimes a student needs to increase volunteer activities, while other students may need to participate in more medically related experiences. I truly appreciate the opportunity to help each student realize that every day is one day closer to medical school, and as such, every day should include an activity that helps ensure success as a future professional.”

Technology has changed in the medical profession, but Janssen's goals are still the same, to help students navigate their way from college through medical school and into a successful residency program.

“What is taught is much less important than what is learned, understood, and appreciated, ” Janssen said. “Knowing medical facts is obviously necessary, but facts alone are insignificant.”

Creating quality patient care, Janssen said, “Requires compassion, teamwork, cultural competence, the capability for self-improvement, and ethical responsibility.”

Life experiences give every student a great story to tell. Janssen’s immense experience is something he’s excited to share with the next generation of caregivers. Knowing that in “some small way,” he had a hand in their transformation from student to caring professional is “a reward that defies description,” Janssen added.