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Hillsdale offers a pre-medical track program that helps stu­dents fulfill the pre­req­uisite courses for medical school. Pexels | Courtesy

At her high school grad­u­ation, Maria Grinis told everyone that she wanted to study Spanish at Hillsdale College and go to medical school — and she’s doing just that. Grinis will graduate in May with a Spanish major and attend medical school.

She is just one of many stu­dents who are dis­cov­ering that medical school isn’t just for science majors. New research from Tulane and Thomas Jef­ferson uni­ver­sities sug­gests a cor­re­lation between studying human­ities and higher levels of pos­itive char­ac­ter­istics of physi­cians such as empathy, wisdom, emo­tional intel­li­gence, and the ability to avoid burnout.

“What I tell stu­dents, is if you’re pre-med, you can major in whatever you want, as long as you get the science pre­req­ui­sites in,” said Christopher Hamilton, asso­ciate pro­fessor of chem­istry and pre-health pro­fes­sions adviser.

Hillsdale offers a pre-medical track program that helps stu­dents fulfill the pre­req­uisite courses for medical school. The program rec­om­mends several courses in chem­istry, biology, physics, psy­chology, and soci­ology to give stu­dents a strong back­ground in the sci­ences for medical school courses.

This past year, 18 stu­dents and grad­uates of Hillsdale College applied to medical school. Three of those stu­dents were not science majors.

“The short answer is, they don’t care what your major is,” Hamilton said. “The longer answer is, if they’re just looking at you, they rarely just look to see what your major is. We’ve had a number of non-science majors go on to medical school and be very suc­cessful.”

Grinis found that her Spanish major with the pre-med track allowed her to pursue what she was most pas­sionate about: the Spanish lan­guage and helping people through the medical pro­fession. Growing up with her extended family speaking Spanish, she said she wanted to go to college and cement her fluency. Since she was 8 years old, Grinis said she wanted to work in medical mis­sions, ideally in South America or rural Cal­i­fornia.

While already accepted into one medical school, Grinis is still inter­viewing at addi­tional schools and said her Spanish major has turned into a great talking point.

“At every single interview, they’ve asked about my major,” she said. “It has made my appli­cation stand out because it is a human­ities major…At this point it is asking who has some­thing dif­ferent to bring to the table, and by studying human­ities and studying those aspects of how people interact, that ends up helping you in terms of devel­oping people skills.”

Hamilton agreed.

“You want to be a real person, and Hillsdale is going to do that for everyone because of the liberal arts back­ground, but you want to be a well-edu­cated person,” Hamilton said. “A doctor is more than a tech­nical job.”

One of Grinis’ favorite parts of being a Spanish major while preparing for medical school was the oppor­tunity to tie the two together, even through the core cur­riculum as well.

“Chem­istry gives you the basis of how every­thing works, because you’re lit­erally studying mol­e­cules. And then you’re studying biology and you now know how the little things work and work together and how that trans­lates into human life. Then you study the brain, and how these things work, and then the phys­i­o­logical sides of emotion,” Grinis said. “But then you can take that and apply it to how you analyze a char­acter in lit­er­ature. You know how the brain works, but then you can see the parts that med­icine can’t get at. For the parts that science doesn’t reach, that science can’t answer, you can go into the human­ities and study the soul.”

Jean Shelton, assistant dean of admis­sions and student life at the Western Michigan Uni­versity Homer Stryker M.D. School of Med­icine, said in an email that her department looks for strengths in aca­d­emics, pre-medical expe­ri­ences, and per­sonal attributes.

“Non-science majors tend to think dif­fer­ently and bring unique ways of looking at problems,” she said. “This is very valuable in our team-based approach.”

Hamilton said med­icine has taken on a much more team-based approach, including more than doctors by bringing in dif­ferent healthcare pro­fes­sionals.

“Bringing in dif­ferent people from dif­ferent per­spec­tives and back­grounds can help lead to that cre­ativity that you need, espe­cially when life and death is on the line,” Hamilton said.

Sophomore Sarah Becker is studying bio­chem­istry and phi­losophy in addition to being in the pre-med­icine program. She said she came to Hillsdale in order to dive into the liberal arts, an oppor­tunity she found pos­sible through the core cur­riculum.

“But I also think that there is a really unique oppor­tunity for stu­dents to take classes and learn things that it’s really hard to do on your own for the rest of your life,” Becker said.

She said she thinks a liberal arts per­spective is espe­cially important going into the medical field as opposed to research-based graduate pro­grams.

“It really is crucial to know more than just science or med­icine or biology, because I think the spirit of things that you see and the people you interact with really requires that you have a broader per­spective,” Becker said.

Becker said she hopes to one day enter the neu­rology field and has a par­ticular interest in bioethics.

“If I am going to treat people and engage in med­icine, I really need to under­stand who the person is, what con­sti­tutes their flour­ishing, and what is good for the person before I go into med­icine,” Becker said. “I think that is really important, because they’re not going to give you that in medical school.”