The Goodness of God: Jon Holmlund’s Path from Medicine to Bioethics

From a long, successful career in oncology to a deep dive into bioethics, Jon Holmlund’s journey is a testament to the transformative power of biblical truth and a rigorous education.“The very short version of my spiritual journey is summarized in that song ‘I will sing of the goodness of God.’ It could be my life song,” shares Dr. Jon Holmlund.

The song, officially titled “Goodness of God” by Bethel Music, includes the lyrics:

And all my life You have been faithful
And all my life You have been so, so good
With every breath that I am able
Oh, I will sing of the goodness of God

Jon was raised in a Christian home in the context of the Evangelical Covenant Church. He recalls first placing his trust in and praying to receive Christ as his savior at the age of 13.

Later in life, Jon earned a bachelor’s degree in philosophy, followed by medical school, where he trained as a medical oncologist. For 30 years after that, he had a career in oncology drug development, focusing on translational and clinical studies at places like the National Cancer Institute.

In the 1990s, Jon also developed an interest in bioethics partly because he was disturbed by the prospect of human cloning and felt remorse that he had not positioned himself careerwise to do anything about it.

“I had known about TEDS’ Center for Bioethics & Human Dignity (CBHD) and the Trinity Evangelical Divinity School’s (TEDS) Master of Arts in Bioethics for some time. When my career hit a bit of a pause, and I took on more flexible consulting-based work, I saw an opportunity to do the master’s degree, which was offered on a modular and remote basis,” Jon shares.

The bioethics program enables students like Jon to think about moral and ethical issues related to healthcare, scientific research, and emerging technology.

Throughout his studies at TEDS, getting to know and be taught by the likes of John Kilner, Paige Cunningham, Mike Sleasman, Robert Orr, Ben Mitchel, and Scott Rae were high points. Jon also appreciated being steered to helpful reading on meta-ethics regarding moral realism.

Today, Jon feels his bioethics degree is foundational to the work he does in the area, including writing letters and essays to different outlets.

Within his relationship with Christ, Jon feels the impact of his TEDS education, too. “The main benefit was the chance to wrestle with bioethical issues in the context of orthodox Christian belief,” he says.

As Jon reflects on his career, one highlight that comes to mind was leading the two largest, most definitive clinical trials to date of an experimental drug intended to limit the incidence and severity of radiation-induced oral mucositis — an unmet need for patients with head and neck cancer.

Jon retired at the end of 2022, and in his retirement, he has numerous life goals. He strives to deepen his walk with Christ and “do everything I reasonably can to contribute to and promote true revival in the Church.”

Jon also hopes to love his wife, family, friends, and neighbors more fully, do volunteer work with the homeless population and with foster kids aging out of the system, and contribute in some way to the discussion and efforts of bioethics.

One way he has done so already was by contributing weekly to Trinity’s bioethics blog from 2011 to 2020. “The writing I did there helped me form the foundation for at least some positions and arguments I will carry into the future, restating or expanding on as warranted,” he says.

Now, Jon maintains his relationship with TEDS by engaging with the Center for Bioethics & Human Dignity as a peer reviewer.

As he moves into the next chapters of his life, Jon will continue to rely on his trust in God, encouraged by the song lyrics that remind him of the foundation of his relationship with Christ.

With every breath that I am able
Oh, I will sing of the goodness of God