Alumni and Friends | University Community

Jim Burger puts his passion for learning and teaching to work at his alma mater

Jim Burger is proud to teach students in some of the same classrooms where he took classes as an undergraduate at Ohio University Chillicothe over 40 years ago.

Burger, who teaches biology courses and serves as the science lab coordinator at OHIO Chillicothe, recently celebrated his 20th year of service at the university.

When he graduated from high school in 1971 during the Vietnam War, Burger hoped to follow in the footsteps of his father, a veteran of World War II. He attempted to enlist in the military but failed the required physical exam because of a hearing issue. Burger’s father had been a medic in the army and later served as an administrator in a hospital, so Burger knew a career in the medical field guaranteed job security since people always need healthcare.  

At age 19, Burger started working as a medical lab technologist at Medical Center Hospital (now Adena Regional Medical Center). He earned an associate degree in medical lab technology from Scioto County Technical College and continued to work full-time while pursuing his bachelor’s degree at OHIO Chillicothe with financial support from the hospital. Burger finished his coursework on the Athens campus and graduated from Ohio University in 1982 with a Bachelor of Science in zoology and medical technology.

While working in hospital labs for over 40 years, Burger enjoyed working behind the scenes to support the work of nurses and doctors and the care – sometimes life-saving care – that patients received. Burger and his teams administered tests and shared results that helped inform the treatment plans developed by doctors and nurses as they treated patients.

“I have had a very rewarding career,” Burger said. “I know all about the patient, all the chemistry work, and everything that's going on inside them through the testing that we do.”

Burger’s first attempt at retirement in 2011 left him missing his work running hospital labs so he returned to work, this time at Fairfield Medical Center, retiring from there in 2019.

He earned his master’s degree in business administration from Franklin University in 2002. A year later, Burger discovered his passion for teaching when a colleague at Adena Regional Medical Center, and an OHIO Chillicothe nursing faculty member, suggested that he come to OHIO Chillicothe to teach microbiology to the nursing students. For many years he worked his full-time job at the hospital during the day, then came to teach classes on campus in the evenings.

Burger said he has enjoyed being able to share the knowledge and experience he has gained from his years working in medical technology and microbiology. In his classes, he shared real-life examples to illustrate concepts that students were learning and helped them understand what it is like to be part of a team providing healthcare.

I think people should always keep learning,” Jim Burger said.

As an instructor, Burger takes a straightforward approach to teaching and works to provide his students with the tools they need to succeed.

“I never have liked surprises,” he said. “I like to have a well laid out syllabus, so students understand what the goals are and what we're trying to achieve. I'm not here to fail you.”

Burger said he loves teaching and has a passion for his work as an educator. He remembers professors like Roger Smith and Art Voorhies who inspired him with their passion, and he hopes to make a difference for the students he teaches. He has fond memories of his student days at OHIO Chillicothe in the late 1970s. Aside from the Friday night parties, he enjoyed participating in dances on campus and noted that the campus had an active student senate and a vibrant basketball program at that time.

A proud Bobcat, Burger is also proud to have a family of Bobcats. His wife attended Ohio University and his son earned OHIO degrees in physics and geography.

When he’s not teaching classes or preparing labs for students at OHIO Chillicothe, Burger keeps himself busy with several local civic organizations including the Chillicothe Rotary Club. He enjoys golfing, gardening, and playing guitar with a local cover band.

“We're just a bunch of old guys who have fun,” Burger said, describing his classic rock band. “It's something fun to do and it keeps me young.”

Burger advises students trying to figure out their career paths to try job shadowing so they can get a sense of the jobs they might be interested in and see how their expectations match up to the reality of those jobs.

“When you're young, it's hard to figure out what you want to be and what you want to do,” Burger said. “I always tell my students to find what makes them happy and do that because your job is going to be over half your life. You're going to be working for a long time and you better enjoy what you do.”

June 15, 2023
Staff reports