For students interested in medical careers, a liberal arts education may not seem like a natural first step. And yet, according to a new article from the American Medical Association, such a background could make a person a better medical student and, ultimately, a better medical professional as well. Christendom graduates can already attest to that fact, with alumni serving as surgeons, psychologists, nurses, and more around the country.
Students are often interested in medical careers post-college, eager to help people in need in this important way. Going to school as a liberal arts major seemingly poses a problem, however — how will a philosophy degree get one into medical school? According to Richard M. Ratzan, MD, liberal arts students need not worry. In fact, they should be overjoyed that they made such an educational decision.
“All students applying for admission to medical school [should] major in the humanities with an optional minor in biology and science topics…No premed majors need apply; the science training will come after acceptance,” writes Ratzan in a separate essay.
Other medical experts may not go so far as to suggest only accepting liberal arts majors for medical school, but they do agree: a liberal arts background does help.
“There’s value with folks coming from a different academic pathway,” says John D. Schriner, PhD, the associate dean for admissions and student affairs at Ohio University Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine. “They come into medical school with different perspective and life experiences. It really gives students an opportunity to assess the human condition through a different lens, and to realize that folks are more than just the symptoms they present. Having that perspective that is a little broader can help students assess the bigger picture of where their patients are coming from.
One of the biggest advantages that liberal arts students bring to the medical profession are communication skills, particularly in regard to communicating with patients. These, along with critical thinking skills, help set liberal arts majors apart from other medical students, according to Christendom alumna Angelica Cintorino (’14), an RN at UVA Medical Center.
“I was the only one in my program who did not have a background in cellular biology or any type of medicine,” Cintorino explained. “But while my classmates could grasp the scientific aspects, many of them weren’t able to do the critical thinking that was demanded on our exams and in the clinicals. The critical thinking skills I developed in my classes at Christendom carried me through nursing school, and now carry me through my nursing career.”
Christendom’s curriculum helps give students the skills that the American Medical Association now says can set students apart from their peers and lead to future success. Indeed, Christendom alumni have found success across the medical field. Cintorino, along with Joseph Norton (’10), Catherine McFadden Wendt (’16), and Tess Ginski Sciscilo (’07) all now serve as registered nurses, after earning degrees in theology, philosophy, philosophy, and history respectively.
Alumni are serving in other capacities in the medical field as well. Dr. Neill Mollard (’97) is a cardiovascular anesthesiologist, after earning a degree in philosophy from Christendom. Dr. John English (’06), now a general surgeon, also was a philosophy major, along with Dr. Kipp Slocum (’04), an oral and maxillofacial surgeon, and Dr. Joseph Molitor (’08), a psychologist. All of these alumni now serve as alumni mentors as well, helping current students achieve the same success in the medical field that they have found.
Rather than being a hindrance, the liberal arts major instead led to great success for these alumni. They excelled in medical school and are now finding success as medical professionals as well. Their Catholic liberal arts background is also helping them navigate the ethical questions that are often posed in the medical field, allowing them to impact lives and society for the better as a result.
For students interested in the medical field, there is still the question of how they can obtain the prerequisites they need for medical school while at Christendom. Thankfully, the college has thought of that question as well and boosted the curriculum as a result. Students can now take most of their prerequisites while on campus, with the college offering Physics I & II, Human Anatomy and Physiology I & II, Intro to Biology and Microbiology, 300-level Probability and Statistics, and Rational Psychology.
At one time, a liberal arts major may have been looked down upon by medical professionals. Now, the case is different, with these alumni seen instead as better medical students and medical professionals. For Christendom students and alumni, they can rest easy in the knowledge that their degree is a pathway to medical success.