Medicine requires a generation of creativity

Two weeks ago I caught some heat for a column I wrote about vaccines. It’s an article that I’m proud of and an article that I stand by. Dissatisfaction seemed to come from those who thought that my philosophy major prevented me from commenting on vaccinations from a scientific perspective – well that and the fact that not everyone appreciates my attempts at humor, but that’s fair game.

However, while I may be a philosophy major, I am also a pre-med student applying to medical school this semester. The perceived miscategorization of my area of undergraduate expertise is reminiscent of the miscategorization prevalent in other pre-med students as well. It seems as if we’re all supposed to fit a mold as future doctors. Is it such that because our chosen courses of study may differ from the norms that our future in a clinic is somehow compromised?

Medicine is a tumultuous field. As opposed to the increasingly outdated laboratory-bound scientist picture, society now needs doctors from more diverse academic backgrounds – law, education, history, and yes, philosophy. With our country struggling to find a healthcare identity, we need future physicians to be equipped for any outcome. Communities as a whole, not just individuals, need healing, and it is extremely important that pre-med students and medical schools recognize this.

The medical school application process seems like a rat race that begins long before one even steps foot into his or her first college class. I have heard many complain that their four years on campus have felt like a checklist that must be completed before even thinking about sending applications and transcripts to medical schools. A great MCAT score, extracurricular activities and clinical experience are necessities for going to medical school. However, it doesn’t seem to follow that our great need for a higher quantity of high quality doctors will be met, as we run the risk of scaring away potentially great physicians by requiring so many students to compete against one another so viciously.

It can’t be said enough – either to students, advisors or admission officers – that now more than ever, physicians need to be selected from hard workers with deep academic passions and pursuits. Think of it this way, as a future patient, you wouldn’t want a doctor to be running around treating patients in 15 rooms at the same time. It would be much more comforting to have a physician spending careful time with one or two rooms.

As we enter an unproven era of political and technological change in the medical field, it is important that we do so well equipped. Yes, my major is different from the majority of students pursuing the same goal. One day I hope to reach the medical population in ways that extend from just a clinical setting, and I know that there are many others on this campus and at other universities who share the same goal. I hope that doctors can be recognized as those who come from all educational backgrounds. Our future doctors should not be judged by what their diploma says but instead by the passion that they exemplify and the circumstances that they face on their journey to making the world a healthier place. 

Eric Roddy is a senior majoring in philosophy on the pre-med track. His column runs biweekly.

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