Surgeon Uses Her Gifts to Support Students at Bethel and Beyond

Dr. Krista Kaups ’79 fondly remembers the close connections she built with her highly skilled and dedicated professors at Bethel. Today, not only is she dedicated to ensuring students can have similar experiences at Bethel, she is sharing her expertise as a surgeon with learners at home in California and around the world.

By Jason Schoonover ’09, content specialist

November 28, 2022 | 9 a.m.

Dr. Krista Kaups ’79

Since Dr. Krista Kaups ’79 graduated from Bethel, she’s gone on to work as director of the Surgical Intensive Care Unit at Community Regional Medical Center in Fresno, California. She also serves in the leadership of several professional organizations. She is chair of the Trauma, Burns, and Surgical Critical Care Board, and is involved with the American Board of Surgery and the Committee on Trauma, which is part of the American College of Surgeons. She also remains dedicated to supporting and serving current and future Bethel students.

When arriving at Bethel in the fall of 1976, Dr. Krista Kaups ’79 planned to only attend Bethel for one year before transferring. A few weeks later, she told her parents she planned to stay. “It was just the feeling of inclusivity and the ease of meeting people, the sense of purpose throughout the campus,” she says.

That sense of purpose helped propel Kaups to medical school, where she found her calling as a surgeon. Today, she serves as director of the Surgical Intensive Care Unit at Community Regional Medical Center in Fresno, California. She also serves in the leadership of several professional organizations and plays a key role in training new surgeons and doctors. Decades later, Kaups remains committed to helping students have similar experiences at Bethel.

Kaups’ time in Bethel’s Department of Chemistry prepared her well for medical school. She earned a biochemistry degree—a non-standard specialization at the time—and found a strong sense of community. She fondly remembers barbecues at her professors’ homes, a “biochem buffet,” and other fun activities. And Kaups also forged close connections with her professors, who knew her by name and were available for students to stop by their office and discuss topics and issues. “They were very open and they modeled excellence in learning and they just modeled humility,” she says. Overall, her time in the chemistry department helped her learn how to learn, which prepared her for medical school and a life of learning.

Kaups continued to medical school, planning to be a family practice doctor in a small town until her clinicals exposed her to surgery. She appreciated the immediate opportunity to address a problem when surgery is required. Today, she specializes in general surgery and also focuses on trauma and critical care surgeries. “We get to take care of some of the sickest patients in the hospital,” she says.

And Kaups has used her skills to give back. She spent two months in West Africa at a missions hospital during her final year of medical school. Since, she’s traveled to South Sudan, Kenya, Ethiopia, Afghanistan, and more. While she has traveled abroad to perform operations, she has found it’s only a drop in the bucket of helping those in need. Instead, she strives to pass on her skills to doctors abroad so they can perform surgeries and reach more people. She is also involved with groups that provide continuing education to doctors overseas.
Dr. Krista Kaups ’79 and staff members from Lui Hospital in South Sudan.

Along with her work as a surgeon, Dr. Krista Kaups ’79 has traveled abroad for medical mission work since her time in medical school. Here, she poses with staff members from Lui Hospital in South Sudan in 2001.

Similarly, Kaups family also carries deep ties to education. Though she never expected to become a teacher. Kaups also works with the Surgical Critical Care Fellowship at the UCSF Fresno Center for Medical Education and Research. “I’ve discovered over the years there’s really the joy in sharing information,” she says. Though Kaups rarely teaches in a classroom, she serves a key role teaching medical students and surgical residents. She shares her expertise with them and guides them as they gain hands-on training and experience. Though it comes with challenges and frustrations, Kaups says working with young doctors encourages her to continue learning as well.

Throughout her career, Kaups has deeply appreciated the connection she forms with patients and their families. She serves families in a challenging time. Most trauma patients were fine before suffering a calamity that sent them to intensive care. While Kaups loves seeing her patients return to their homes, jobs, and families, she strives to support families in good times and bad. “Stories don’t always have happy endings, and sometimes the best thing we can do is support families,” she says.

While Kaups is dedicated to patients and families, she says it’s God who heals. Driven by the knowledge that every person is created in God’s image, Kaups strives to treat her patients, colleagues, and learners as if they bear that image. Kaups says COVID-19—and the isolation and loneliness it caused—helped her reflect on the need for a faith-driven worldview in medicine. “There’s certainly a need for people who can minister to other people, who can listen,” she says.

Seeing the benefit of equipping men and women of faith to serve in the medical field, Kaups has supported Bethel as a donor for many years. For her 60th birthday, several close family members who had traveled from out of town surprised her by helping her form the Krista L. Kaups Scholarship Fund. It helps Bethel students with financial needs pursue careers in medicine. It was the latest step Kaups has taken to help students have a life-changing experience at Bethel. Similarly, Kaups has supported efforts in recent years to expand Bethel's science programs and facilities. Bethel has added degrees like computer engineering, electrical engineering, and software engineering. But Kaups is most excited about the state-of-the-art spaces added through the three-story, 18,000-square-foot Nelson-Larson Science Center, which opened in 2020. Kaups says Bethel now has the space to match the skill, acclaim, and quality of its professors in the sciences. “You’ve got these high-quality faculty who could be teaching at any number of places with bigger resources. Now this ensures they have the facilities they need,” she says

“It was just a real privilege to just watch and be part of a group of people who were so deeply committed to the mission of Bethel, to Bethel students, to preparing people to be salt and light in the world."

— Dr. Krista Kaups '79

Along with also including Bethel in her will, Kaups served two terms—12 years—on Bethel’s Board of Trustees. The experience helped her gain a new appreciation for those who serve Bethel and its students. “It was just a real privilege to just watch and be part of a group of people who were so deeply committed to the mission of Bethel, to Bethel students, to preparing people to be salt and light in the world,” she says. It also helped her see that all gifts to support Bethel matter. Though large gifts are important, she says it’s more important that as many people give what they can. “I do think the important thing is everyone giving what they’re able to, supporting the mission,” she says.

Pursue a medical career at Bethel.

Bethel offers many opportunities to pursue a career in healthcare. Along with pre-med pathways, various undergraduate and graduate majors provide students with the skills and knowledge they need to pursue careers in medicine, nursing, dentistry, physician assistant, physical therapy, pharmacy, and more.

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