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Former Obama Health Care Advisor To Give Illinois Wesleyan Commencement Speech

Stephen Ondra
Illinois Wesleyan University
Dr. Stephen L. Ondra, a former military surgeon and leading healthcare policy expert, will deliver Illinois Wesleyan University’s commencement address on Sunday.";

As Illinois Wesleyan’s 2019 graduates take their first steps into the working world Sunday, a fellow Titan alum will tell them their liberal arts degree will be key to their success.

Dr. Stephen Ondra graduated from Illinois Wesleyan in 1980. The former military surgeon worked in the Obama administration as a health care policy advisor.

Ondra said the Great Recession's aftermath has people thinking about college the wrong way. It's not about job placement, he says. It's about learning how to learn.

"The ability to re-invest yourself, to continue to learn, to see the world in a larger way—especially as the world gets smaller—it makes a liberal arts education not a good thing or a nice thing but an essential thing to success," Ondra said on GLT's Sound Ideas.

He said the emergence of artificial intelligence (AI) and other data-driven technology will change everything for college-educated professionals.

“When you think about how artificial intelligence and other changes in the way knowledge is accumulated are going to transform society,” Ondra said, “I think professionals are going to have the same kind of fundamental changes in their work lives that industrial workers had with the advent of automation and robotics.”

Among his many jobs Ondra has been a soldier, surgeon, teacher, and worked in the federal government. Just as the lives of workers will change because of technology, Ondra says that health care will undergo changes as well.

“I think artificial intelligence will change the way patients receive care,” Ondra said. “(A.I. will change) how physicians, nurses, and other providers of care deliver it and how it’s administered.” 

GLT's Charlie Schlenker talks more with Ondra on the future of health care and the current political discourse in the full interview below:

Illinois Wesleyan’s commencement ceremony will take place at 1 p.m. Sunday, May 5.

GLT's full story

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Sean Newgent is a senior journalism major at Illinois State University. He's an intern for the GLT newsroom.
WGLT Senior Reporter Charlie Schlenker has spent more than three award-winning decades in radio. He lives in Normal with his family.