More than a year ago I had lamented the lack of exposure to the humanities and the social sciences during my school and college years as a science student. I firmly believe that a well rounded education better prepares a person for whatever esoteric specialty awaits them later in life than a one dimensional focus. Overspecialization from early years can churn out expert automatons but not particularly productive (or interesting) members of society. An article in last week's Newsweek describes this wisdom of approach now being adopted by some US medical schools. No longer do they wish to see prospective doctors trained in the time worn pre-med specialties heavy in biology and chemistry. Med schools want doctors to have had exposure to fuzzier disciplines like history, language, literature etc. Physicians, they believe shouldn't just be expert technocrats able to order up the right tests but also good listeners with an ear for the "story" that their patients may have to tell. I agree wholeheartedly. But a helpful reminder - to be a good doctor, you still have to be a good scientist. There is just no way around that.
One week into his premed classes at Washington University in St. Louis, Ryan Jacobson was rethinking his plan to become a doctor. His biology and chemistry classes were large, competitive and impersonal—not how he wanted to spend the next four years. "Sitting in a chemistry class, I knew it wasn't the right place for me," he says. Jacobson found the history department, with its focus on faculty interaction and discussion, a better fit. But he had no intention of leaving his medical aspirations behind. So Jacobson majored in history while also taking the science and math courses required for medical school. When he graduated last spring, he won the departmental prize for undergraduate thesis for his work on the history of race relations in Tulsa, Okla. He started medical school at the University of Illinois last month. "Historians are supposed to integrate information with the big picture," he says, "which will hopefully be useful as a physician."
Even as breakthroughs in science and advances in technology make the practice of medicine increasingly complex, medical educators are looking beyond biology and chemistry majors in the search for more well-rounded students who can be molded into caring and analytic doctors. "More humanities students have been applying in recent years, and medical schools like them," says Gwen Garrison, assistant vice president for medical-school services and studies at the Association of American Medical Colleges. "The schools are looking for a kind of compassion and potential doctoring ability. This makes many social-science and humanities students particularly well qualified."
The rest of the article here.