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 to having more students who can crush the MCAT and also have people skills. She emphasizes 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 expectations for them
- The field of biochemistry itself: the explosion in molecular biology and molecular genetics
- Information is going to continue to change, but students need 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 biochemistry 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.
Why the humanities are becoming more important for premed students:
- The importance of social skills
- The importance of knowledge of the world in which the patients live
- Understanding the communities you serve
- Understanding economic and social pressures in addition to health problems
Why science matters:
- Having the facts is just the starting point
- Building the foundation for who you can become as a physician
On her published study, “The Liberal Education of STEM Majors“
- Students who took the most courses outside of STEM disciplines were best able to make connections between fields.
- These students had the ability to describe how knowledge is created in different fields.
- These students could synthesize and make use of data both from analytical fields that use lots of hard data and from fields that use 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.
Some pieces of advice for premed students:
- You can’t understand the field unless you do the basic work of learning the core sciences.
- 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.
Links and Other Resources
- Dr. Wolfson’s essay “Science Matters”
- Dr. Wolfson’s study “The Liberal Education of STEM Majors”
- Related episode: Pros and Cons of the Liberal Arts for Premed Students
- Related episode: All About FlexMed (Formerly “HuMed,” Humanities in Medicine)
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