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History at Work: Medical School

Barbara Schuster, on medicine

Barbara Schuster

The humanities and medicine may seem like split personalities. But the humanities can constitute real preliminary training for the challenges of being a doctor. Dr. Barbara Schuster, Founding Campus Dean of the Georgia Regents University-University of Georgia Medical Partnership, knows many physicians and surgeons who started off as humanists. She also thinks we could use more. The relationship may seem counterintuitive, but illness requires more than a mechanical approach to fixing bodies. A lot of the work that medical practice requires will sound familiar to a history major: reading, researching, analysis, writing, and communicating are all essential skills. And as Schuster sees it, the most valuable skill that humanists cultivate is the art of careful observation. Medicine thrives through the same attention to detail that it takes, for example, to analyze a text. It thrives through the same alertness to the complex relationships between individuals and environments that it takes to establish causes and effects in history. “Medicine is deep thinking,” Schuster stresses. “It’s communicating. It’s caregiving. And the humanities do that for us.” Of course medical school should be something you actually want to do, rather than something you sign up for to satisfy someone else. But you shouldn’t categorically exclude it as an option just because your major doesn’t seem like an obvious first step. In fact it might be exactly what you need.

History majors with more questions about preparing for med school can also contact Andrew Crain, a consultant at UGA’s Career Center. He specializes in pre-med and also happens to have majored in history himself.

(Back to History at Work Speaker Series)

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