English for a Career in Health Sciences
For students who want a career in health care but not laboratory science, an English major or minor is a flexible way to pursue your own unique interests, develop strong habits for self-directed study, and succeed in your classes.
In English classes, students learn to interpret stories, support those interpretations with careful attention to evidence, and craft compelling oral and written presentations of those interpretations.
The central source of data in clinical medicine is “the patient’s story,” and the case history dominates medical practice and increasingly medical education and testing. English students thus acquire key skills for the health sciences, such as holistic analysis of complex and ambiguous situations. Strong interpersonal communication skills developed in small discussion classes not only undergird patient-centered practice, but also a team-based approach to care.
According to the American Association of Medical Colleges, medical schools accepted 51% of humanities majors in 2010, compared with 43% of biological sciences majors.
English majors stand out in an applicant pool of over 40,000 candidates with similar credentials — and produce better personal essays and interviews. The reading, writing, and communication skills gained in small, student-centered English classes are invaluable. One of the four total scored sections of the MCAT is “Critical Analysis and Reading Skills,”and The Princeton Review reports that humanities students outscore science students in all test sections.
Jimmy Castellanos (2011 UND Writers Conference) advises, “When ambitious pre-med students at conferences ask me what is the most important skill they can learn during their undergraduate studies, I always give the same answer: learn to write well!” In his experience in the Weill Cornell/Rockefeller/Sloan-Kettering MD-PhD program, Castellanos has found that the ability to write grants and fellowship applications makes one “an asset, a truly hot commodity.”
Many opportunities for English students interested in health care exist beyond the standard path to medical school. Several year-long post-baccalaureate programs get humanities students ready for medical school, while some medical schools and advanced practice nursing programs waive traditional requirements such as pre-med coursework and the MCAT or a BSN. “Medical Humanities” is a field in its own right that has dedicated academic programs but is also incorporated into premedical and medical education in a variety of ways.
Connect With an English Advisor
UND’s English department includes several faculty whose specializations relate to medicine. These faculty teach thematic courses at all levels on topics like reproduction, addiction, the history of medicine, science in literature, and body theory.
If you want to bring together English study with a future in the health sciences, please contact Yvette Koepke. In addition to helping you select courses, Professor Koepke can draw on her own experience with medical school and teaching MCAT preparation to assist you with the entire process of pursuing your interest in the health sciences.