Stephanie Slemp graduated from Butler University in 2008
with a BA in Religion.
I felt like a child again sitting in the lotus position on the
carpet square. Only this time, our hands were in a prayer
position. I remember hearing only Eddie's voice, raspy yet
beautiful. He was wearing a gray robe and his round face was
young, his head shaven. For a moment, it was as if I was in a
monastery, somewhere in Korea perhaps, surrounded by devoted monks
chanting their sutras. We all followed Eddie's actions.
Stand up. Bow. Head on the floor. Repeat.
The man across from me was breathing hard-struggling to keep
pace. I tried to concentrate on the unvarnished wooden
floor. "Only fifty more," I thought to myself. As soon
as we finished 108 full prostrations, I began to chant along in
Korean. After five lines, I realized that I didn't know what
I was chanting. Eddie's voice brought me back to
reality. How did I end up at the Zen Buddhism Center?
How did I go from wanting to study biology to studying
I finally thought that I
was on the path to becoming a doctor when I became a biology major
at Butler University. However, a whirlwind of doubt and
uncertainty soon swept through my world. As we studied
evolution in class, I began to question the purpose of life.
Why is our miraculous, intricate human body here? Evolution
was one way to answer my questions, but there seemed to be more to
the story. Why did people believe differently and why was
religion such a large part of life, conflicts, and morality?
With these questions in mind, I took a risk: I changed my
major. I was almost certain my decision would scar my chances
of becoming a physician. Perhaps I would choose a different
career, something in religion. Yet my path through religion
has taken an ironic turn-it has affirmed my commitment to a career
During my studies, I began to realize that religion was an
important part of many people's lives. I am still fascinated
when I read the first line of the Hippocratic Oath, as its
religious references are clear. Religion is present in St.
Vincent Hospital's Emergency Room as well. While training for
my EMT-B license, I tried to keep up with the doctor, walking
hurriedly in all directions. The paramedics brought an older
woman into room five; she had just had a seizure. She was
frail, shaking, and kept a blank stare at the ceiling. As I
followed the doctor out of the room, an older man was
entering. I heard a brief second of his whispers, but it was
enough to understand, "Please God." When medicine falls
short, experience has shown me that religion is there.
Studying many different religions such as Buddhism, Judaism, Islam,
and Christianity at Butler University allowed me to investigate and
question my own beliefs as well as appreciate, erase assumptions
about, and develop empathy for different cultures and
traditions. Although I job shadowed Christian counselors and
considered seminary, something was missing. I knew a career
in religion would not completely satisfy my passion for studying
the human body.
My senior year at Butler, I was accepted into Indiana University
School of Medicine. Throughout my four years of medical
school I have come to cherish even more-so my time spent in Jordan
Hall classrooms and various places of worship discussing such a
passionate subject like religion. I continue to draw
inspiration every day, especially in times of stress, from one of
my favorite classes: The Book of Psalms. After medical
school, I will be starting a residency in Pathology. I have
met many different classmates, teachers, patients, and doctors
along my journey and I thank my professors and classmates of the
Religion Department for teaching and challenging me to respect and
appreciate others, no matter what their beliefs may be.
Before I left the Zen Buddhism Center, Eddie explained that Zen
was about answering the question: "Who are you?" I am not a
Buddhist, but I do believe that I am discovering who I am.
Even after changing my major to investigate my questions of life, I
could not change my desires, my purpose. Although I have come
full circle, ended up where I always began, trying something new
did not scar me-it inspired me.