The link between humanities and the human body

Imagine you’re in your first week of medical school (even if you don’t plan on going to medical school, play along.) You’re just getting to know your classmates – where they’re from, what they’re interested in, what they studied in college. The majority say a hard science like biology or chemistry. Some chose a softer science like psychology.

And then one student says, “I majored in theatre.”

You and your classmates glance around, most of you probably thinking the same thing: “This kid is going to struggle.”

And in some respects, you’d be right. Hard science majors do have an advantage going into medical school. They’ve gotten an in-depth look at what makes the body work – at least at the cellular and chemical levels – and probably have taken multiple anatomy or physiology classes.

But in the third and fourth years of medical school, when medical students begin their rotations and interact with actual patients, the humanities student is going to have the advantage.

According to a study by Mount Sinai School of Medicine, located in Manhattan, students in their Humanities and Medicine Program – which admits those who major in humanities and forgo traditional pre-med preparatory classes – performed as well academically as their traditionally prepared peers

They were also found to be more sensitive – specializing in psychiatry, pediatrics and geriatrics – and more likely to pursue research alongside clinical practice.

As I discussed in a previous blog post, students must be holistic, looking at everything as a whole. This includes the students themselves.

It’s important to work hard at what you are majoring in, but don’t be afraid to have other pursuits. I love theatre and it’s something I am actively involved in. I believe it’s made me a more well-rounded person and seriously improved my ability to communicate effectively – a priceless skill to have as a doctor.

For any person applying for anything – a job, college or medical school – it’s important to show that you are unique. And when most of the people applying for the same job or school as you have studied the same things, your differences count even more. Students in the Mount Sinai Humanities and Medicine Program have found a way to pursue two different passions and get the best of both worlds.

Don’t be afraid to do what you love. It just may work to your advantage.

Matt :-)

Read about Matt’s thoughts about holistic students here. 

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