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What's science got to do with it?

by Ken Williams
Graduate Special Student
The Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health

This is the first of what will be a series addressing the current state of premedical education in the United States and the debate that surrounds it. We will explore the role of the natural and social sciences, humanities, and the arts and how they relate to both the education of physicians-in-training at all levels of their schooling and to life as a doctor. With this year being the 100th anniversary of the Flexner Report, the seminal work that caused the educational requirements for physicians to be codified, it is the perfect time to ask questions about what, if anything, should be changed with the path we have to take to get into med school? Are the requirements creating better physicians? How are we measuring that?

For the record, my first degree was in philosophy, where I focused on ethics and logics. Since then, I have studied all sorts of things: health policy, graphic design, architecture, culinary arts, religious studies, and environmental studies, among others. All of these have helped to color my current perspective on both life in general and health care specifically. I believe that they have made me a better prepared applicant for med school, even though the path has taken me quite a bit longer than most.

What do you think about the current state of affairs for premedical education in the US? Let me know and we can explore it together over the next few months...

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Comments  2

  • Andrea 25 Oct

    I can't wait to hear more about your perspective on medical school prerequisites!  I think that the performance of programs like the Mount Sinai Humanities and Medicine program should be prompting more consideration of alternate ways of preparing for medical school, in particular paths that have the potential to lead to more balanced physicians.
  • Zach 26 Oct

    I'm currently living abroad in a country that does not require a college degree for medical school matriculation (like most countries around the world).  For the most part I've been very impressed with the maturity and performance of these 21-year-old doctors.  Recently, however, I had a conversation that changed my mind.  I was talking to a second year medical student who had never heard of William Shakespeare.  I tried mentioning titles, giving a biography, quoting sonnets, nothing worked.  It was incredible.  I've since asked other medical students here about art, literature, history, and language, and have been rather disappointed by their lack of comfort and knowledge.

    I realize that it doesn't affect diagnosis, but can you be a good doctor without knowing Shakespeare?  Can you have a fulfilling career in medicine without a liberal arts education?
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