The Value of Empathy

Taka Higuchi ‘20 celebrating commencement

“I’m the first face they’ll see that day,” says Taka Higuchi ’20 about the children he works with at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus.

As a patient care assistant, he calls patients and their parents, takes blood pressures, temperatures, and other vitals, and generally provides a welcoming and calming presence at the start of an anxiety-filled day.

The health, exercise, and sport studies (HESS) major gained some great experience for his current job while he was an intern with the same hospital. He helped children stay fit through Nationwide’s Play Strong program.

“We explored different ways to be active, and I helped them exercise properly through different games that involved the parents too. It was a lot of fun and the parents became a positive influence for their kids,” he says.

Higuchi knows what it’s like to be uncomfortable and in a hospital. During his first-year at Denison, he required surgery for an injured knee and turned his hospital stay into a learning moment.

“Rehabilitation was so interesting,” he says. “I ended up looking at the process in an anatomical sense.” He had always been interested in sports and how the human body works, and began to think about athletic training as a career.

The HESS major is a great match for students interested in therapy or medicine

When Higuchi joined the HESS major, he was matched with Associate Professor Eric Winters as a mentor. In HESS, faculty mentors guide each student through courses to help them achieve their goals for careers in physical therapy, sports medicine, sports management, public health, and exercise science.

Being a practitioner — not just a cliniciation who can address the body but not get to the deeper human need — is central to Winter’s teaching.

“There are three modalisites of healing: time, attention, and empathy,” he says. “Taka pays attention to what’s in front of him. That is hard to come by these days when we are pushed into the path of ‘doing’ by our culture. Taka really embodies the concept of empathy. He understands what a patient is feeling, and practically vibrates with it.”

Looking for more experience, Higuchi signed on to the athletic training staff, where he worked with an athletic trainer and team. He learned first-aid and attended practices and games, and provided emergency care if it was needed.

International students can find good careers

Today, Higuchi lives in Columbus with two other Denison grads and is thinking more about the future. As an international student from Japan, he has options if he wants to stay in the US for his career.

Rosa Lee, Denison’s liaison for international students and Knowlton Career Center, says international employees can bring a breath of fresh air to many US employers. “In a world where companies are increasingly focusing on global competencies, having a diverse group of international employees who are multilingual and multicultural enables employers to understand international market trends and access knowledge about new cultures and potential markets.”

International students who are interested in working in the US after graduation can apply for Optional Practical Training (OPT) work authorization. Optional Practical Training (OPT) is a work benefit for international students in F-1 immigration status who are enrolled in or completing a degree program in the U.S. OPT is not a “work visa” and does not require you to remain at one company for the entire OPT period. Denison’s Global Programs Office and the International Student Service Portal have more detailed information.

December 15, 2020