Sterling College Alumnus Dr. Dan Fahrenholtz Named Colorado Academy of Family Physicians 2010 Teacher of the Year

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

More than 40 years later, Dr. Dan Fahrenholtz can tell stories about his time at Sterling College. He can list the professors and fellow students who had profound impact on him, and he can name the SC singing group he toured with in the summers.

And he can tell you that God used Sterling College to lead him into medicine, the field that he excels in today. “I had the idea early on that I wanted to be an MD,” he said, “but I didn’t think I could do it. One of my friends at Sterling, Dan Pauls, was a pre-med major a year ahead of me. I watched him and thought, ‘I can do this.’”

He could. Professors such as Dr. Crosen and Dr. Powers prepared him, and he felt he could do well in med school. But he didn’t have any money. Again God showed him it was possible. “I grew up in Sylvia, Kan. When I was a college junior, the new mayor of Sylvia called my dad and told him he had found an old fund that was designated for the education of a physician who would come back to Sylvia or the nearby area. The mayor asked my dad, ‘Would Danny like to go medical school?’”

Yes, he would, and Fahrenholtz applied to Kansas University Medical School in 1968. He got to his entrance interview early and picked up the “Kansas Star” to pass the time. An article on the creation of life in a test tube was on the front page. When his name was called, he entered the interview room with two other prospects, one a Stanford graduate, the other a Yale grad. The interviewers asked him only a few questions. “Is Sterling a church school?” “Yes,” he said. “Have you heard the news about the creation of life in a test tube?” “Yes, I have.” “How does that change your view of God?”

Fahrenholtz had been thinking about that article all morning, and he was ready with an answer about his trust in a Creator who still created the elements that could be used to make life in a test tube. They did not ask him anything else, and he left the interview feeling discouraged.

But then he got his letter of acceptance. A few years later, when he attended a KU admissions meeting as an established physician, he learned that KU Med School interviewers knew that SC students were well prepared, that they even took that into consideration when they looked at the GPAs of SC graduates.

He was on his way to becoming what he is today, a teaching physician who received the Colorado Academy of Family Physicians 2010 Teacher of the Year award. For 16 years he has worked with residents at the North Colorado Family Medicine Residency Center in Greeley, Colo., and he also leads hands-on workshops for medical students in the University of Colorado School of Medicine Rural Track. He draws on his own experience in rural medicine to teach his residents and students; for 17 years he practiced medicine in Kingman, Kan., just forty miles from Sylvia, with his brother—who is also a Sterling College graduate (as are Fahrenholtz’s sister, spouse, sister- and brother-in-law, three of his four children, and his sister’s children).

Former and current students of Fahrenholtz say he shares stories of cesarean deliveries on cows and of catching rides to the hospital in a bulldozer when blizzards shut down the highways. They also talk about his excellent teaching, his compassion and empathy, his tremendous procedural skills and his calm demeanor. He was nominated for the award by Dr. David B. Smith, director of the residency program, on behalf of the other members of the Family Medicine faculty, the program’s resident physicians and several other health care professionals. Former students, nurses and colleagues have high praise for him.

Yet he gives credit to others, even to the small college he graduated from so long ago. “I came to Sterling College and fell among Christians,” he said. “The friendships and life lessons from there have carried to the rest of my career.”