I received your letter wondering how a liberal arts education would benefit a medical student. This is a very common debate that has come up lately. A liberal arts education is something that most colleges are beginning to require. There are many factors that come into play when talking about a liberal arts education, especially when relating that education to the schooling of a medical student. The two types of education are drastically diverse, yet both are vital to have a durable career in the future.
Some believe that an education in the liberal arts is very important to a career, but others believe that the skills needed to perform for that career is what the most important. To start off, we need to define what a liberal arts education actually is. A liberal arts education is often known as general education, or gen. eds. , in college. It is all the classes that a majority of schools require a student to take before they can study what they are specifically majoring in.
A liberal arts education focuses on a wide variety of subjects, spanning from the arts to science. A liberal arts education includes courses in anthropology, art history, and sociology or philosophy (Financial Daily). Taking all these courses allows students to “reason inductively and analyse context and people to make the most meaningful decisions in the workplace and beyond” (Financial Daily). These classes make a student well-rounded and give them a diversified knowledge. By that I mean the students have had an education that relates to more than just medicine.
The students took English classes, history classes, and gender and religion classes. Having this diversified knowledge allows for the student to make more connections with all kinds of people, a very important quality for a future career. A medical student can greatly benefit from a liberal arts education. A liberal arts education opens so many doors for a student and make them a “well rounded” physician. They could to have a meaningful conversation with someone and not just rally off facts.
The student could actually connect with the patient because of the classes they took, like sociology and philosophy. These classes teach students how to connect with a person on a much deeper level, which greatly enhances the medical student’s bed side manner, especially when they are competing in the job market. When an employer notices that they have a liberal arts education, it will hint that they are well rounded and have an expanded knowledge beyond medical information. The results from a study done by the Center of Inquiry in the
Liberal Arts at Wabash College concluded that, “liberal arts colleges offered an academic and social environment conductive to developing the qualities desired in a future physician-such as social skills and the ability to ‘think on your feet’” (Stratton). A patient is more likely to open up to a physician if the physician is easy to talk to and seems to be more of a people person. This is very important because if the patient doesn’t open up and tell the physician what is wrong, then how is the physician supposed to use all the skills that he has learned?
That education would have no meaning then. A liberal arts education also makes a pre-med student more able minded to navigate through the “what if” kind of questions. These kind of questions come up quite often in the medical field and having the ability to answer these types of questions is crucial. In summary, if a medical student added a liberal arts education to their range of knowledge they will have a better chance of getting into their desired career. If the student is well rounded and is able to think about the what-if’s, they will be more successful in being a physician.
People think that if they are going to have a career in the medical field their major has to be biology or chemistry, or something along that line. But that is not always the case. Many admission offices do not pay as much attention to the major as they do to the test scores. To be accepted into medical school, a student must take the MCAT. The MCAT is a standardized test that gages the students’ knowledge of basic science, along with problem solving, writing and critical thinking.
A liberal arts education is very helpful for this test, because liberal arts education teaches problem solving, critical thinking and writing. Admissions also look at the students GPA and extra-curricular activities. They are looking for that well-rounded student that does other things besides focus on medicine. A student that can handle doing multiple things. A student that is in other activities that are more diversified and have that has allowed them expand their knowledge beyond medicine. A liberal arts education helps expand that knowledge and introduces students to new, unfamiliar things.
However, there are some major disadvantages to having a liberal arts education. Especially when talking about a medical student having a liberal arts education. As you have expressed this is what you believe to be true. There are many others who are with you on this. While some think that studying sociology and physiology gives students a better understanding of people and how to communicate with them. People like you believe that this may be a good quality to see in a future doctor, but it also takes away from learning more important skills.
A medical student needs to focus on learning the important skills like diagnosing diseases and treating those diseases. You believe they don’t need to waste their time learning how to communicate with people, because that is a skill that they can learn while on the job. According to John Baker, President of Ohio University, a, “close acquaintance with literature to understand the dreams, the ideals, and the traditions of man” is supposed to help with treating patients. These factors have no way of helping a physician diagnose or treat the patient.
As long as the physicians have the skills to treat the problem the other details are not important. Having a liberal arts education could end up being more expensive in the end as well. If the students don’t get the specific training they need they may need to go back to school to get that training. They will have to pay extra money to go to that training just to learn the skills that they need to compete in the job market. The job market in the medical field is huge. But it is also very competitive.
If a student focuses on studying liberal arts and not the specific skills they may lag behind. Without those necessary skills, they will not be as threatening when competing for a job against a student who did not take the time to get a liberal arts education. In conclusion, it is almost pointless for a medical student to get an education in the liberal arts. It will only put the students in more debt and set them behind in the competition for the job market. There are many different opinions on whether or not a liberal arts education is even worth it.
I believe that if a liberal arts education is worth it, if it is mixed with other education, but it needs to have more of a pull towards the liberal arts side. If a student is able to take courses that teach them both the necessary skills they need, plus the skills to be a well-rounded student, it will be beneficial. Having the necessary skills for a certain job is crucial especially when it’s a medical student. If a medical student doesn’t possess the right skills, the patient won’t be able to put their trust in the doctor to get the proper care.
Getting that education that teaches the skills is just as important as getting an education that teaches a wide variety of knowledge and communication skills. Having those skills is what makes a good physician. They have the ability to diagnose and treat, but they also have the ability to talk to the patients and get to know them. They can get to know them and really try to understand everything about them. That is a quality everyone should learn to have. It is easy to say that there are many sides to this debate, but I hold to my stand that a liberal art education is worth it to a pre- med student.
We can compromise and say that people have their own opinion to the topic and have the right to express it. People can agree with different aspects of each side but never fully agree with either one as well. The debate has brought about many new thoughts considering a liberal arts education and its importance to a pre- med student. While there may never be a clear answer of this debate, it is better to debate and announce ones opinion than to settle for what the other people think is right.