In this episode, Ryan is joined by Dr. Adele Wolfson, a biochemistry professor at Wellesley College. They discuss the liberal arts degree and how it can actually be a better or even the best choice for premed.
Adele wrote an essay talking about the big swing in the admissions process away from strictly science-based students and having students that can crush the MCAT to having students with people skills. She further talks about the importance of not discounting the study of science as an academic discipline while studying social sciences. It’s all about balance.
Here are the highlights of the conversation with Dr. Wolfson:
How the admissions process to medical school has changed over the years:
- Preparation of students and the expectation for them
- The field of biochemistry itself – the explosion in molecular biology and molecular genetics
- Information is going to continue to change; instead have a solid foundation in the core disciplines and the ability to learn new material as it arises
Biochemistry as a premed requisite?
Adele thinks that you can learn it at any stage given the right background and the right tools[Learn More About Choosing an Undergrad Major]
On Adele’s essay, Science Matters
- Every student should know sufficient science to be a good physician
- Every student should know sufficient liberal arts, humanities, and social science to know how the world works on a social, artistic level
The reason for the shift from strictly science-focused students in admission to bringing in humanities:
- The importance of social skills
- The importance of knowledge of the world in which the patients live
- Understanding the communities
- Understanding the economic and social pressures in addition to health problems
Why Science matters:
- Having the facts is just the starting point
- Building the foundation and your skills being interwoven into who you become as a physician
- Looking at science not just as a body of knowledge but figuring out how they work and their implications to your patient’s health
On her published study, The Liberal Education of STEM Majors
- A hope to connect the disciplines (written along with Lee Cuba and Alexandra Day)
- Their findings:
- Students who took the most courses outside of the STEM disciplines were best able to learn the second discipline in some depth and were able to make connections between those fields
- The ability to talk knowledgeably about the ways in which knowledge is created in different fields
- Understanding of things in both an analytical field that uses lots of data and literature field that uses narrative as data
How students can figure out what to major in:
- Take the time to figure out what you’re passionate about.
- If your passion is Greek, take the classics. Just make sure you find enough time to put in the science and other courses you need.
- Take courses that interest you and not just to check off the boxes
Biochemistry vs. organic chemistry
- Biochemistry: The need for knowledge base and build on it and get creative
- Organic chem: The need for a skill set around seeing things in 3D
Some pieces of advice for premed students:
- You can’t understand the field unless you do the basic work.
- Be able to look at a problem, figure out how it needs to be solved, and what information you need to get there.
- Do as many problems as possible to help you learn. Practice a lot to get it into your muscle memory.
- Work in groups to allow you to see things from a different perspective.
By the end of the episode, Ryan answers some questions raised by our listeners about MCAT, shadowing, and getting LOR from a PA.
Links and Other Resources
Dr. Adele Wolfson’s published essay, Science Matters
Adele’s Study: The Liberal Education of STEM Majors
Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or connect with me on Twitter @medicalschoolhq
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