When most people hear the term premedical classes, they think about the chemistry, physics and biology courses that medical schools…
When most people hear the term premedical classes, they think about the chemistry, physics and biology courses that medical schools require students to complete prior to matriculation. The fact that most med schools also require a year of college English courses may come as a surprise.
While the rationale for embracing the hard sciences before starting a science-based career is obvious, the importance of building a solid foundation in the humanities may be less apparent to prospective med students. Participating in collegiate-level literature classes builds skills that may not be developed elsewhere in the premed curriculum. Literature courses can nurture your analytical skills; enhance your ability to comprehend and synthesize findings in peer-reviewed research; and present opportunities to broaden your perspective on social, emotional and economic issues.
If you are a premed student selecting courses for next term, consider enrolling in a literature course for three important reasons:
— Literature courses can help you develop a critical eye.
— Literature courses teach you how to be a researcher.
— Literature courses expose you to ideas, cultures and views you may otherwise miss.
Literature Courses Can Help You Develop a Critical Eye
Literature courses are all about interpretation. Unlike science courses, which require the memorization and manipulation of facts and principles, literature classes ask you to determine what an author is saying, what an author is not saying and to make sense of a text beyond what is directly in front of you on the page.
Drawing on your experiences, other literary texts and multidisciplinary lenses, literature courses require you to apply a magnifying glass to a sentence — or even a word — while simultaneously reaching into the vast expanse of academia and culture. In no other discipline will you find yourself dealing not only with the class materials at hand, but also with the philosophical, sociological, psychological, anthropological, historical and economic contexts in which those materials live.
Many colleges and universities offer literature courses focused on close literary analysis that best develop this critical eye. At Bryn Mawr College, my alma mater, Methods of Literary Study provides a semester-long forum in which students weave primary literary texts, literary theory and their personal perspectives to piece together a nuanced interpretation of course materials. Seeking out a similar class can help you foster the interpretive skills necessary to understand the complex clinical presentations you will see as a physician.
Literature Courses Teach You How to be a Researcher
Becoming a good researcher involves more than knowing how to use lab equipment, crunch numbers and summarize data. All new research is built upon the shoulders of work already done. Being able to take in and synthesize the body of work that came before your project is key to contributing to the advancement of any given field. Lab science courses do a great job of teaching students how to do experiments in a vacuum, but when it comes to situating the results of those experiments within a larger context, science classes often fall short.
In contrast, literature courses impart the skills needed to complete what’s known as a literature review, or a review of academic articles pertinent to your subject of interest. In the medical world, literature reviews are crucial for obtaining institutional approval to move forward with an experiment, present work to peers and publish in academic journals. Writing papers for literature classes requires students to delve into past interpretations of a text before offering new viewpoints.
Courses in classical literature perhaps best nurture review skills, as time-honored texts come packaged with significant bodies of critical research begging for understanding and synthesis prior to drawing conclusions. Because research is important not only in the medical school application process, but as a medical student and physician as well, think about taking a literature class that emphasizes literary review.
Literature Courses Expose You to Ideas, Cultures and Views You May Otherwise Miss
Throughout your medical career, you will encounter patients and colleagues whose perspectives contrast with your own. Part of being a good physician is being able to meet contrasting viewpoints with empathy and openness, and with sensitivity to the cultural context in which they were raised. Literature classes — especially those that focus on texts from a certain culture — are one way you can start expanding your worldview during your undergraduate years.
I still remember a class I took in contemporary African fiction during my senior year of college. Though reading texts from sub-Saharan authors was no substitute for immersing myself within any one of the multitudes of cultures on the African continent, the course helped me gain a basic understanding of cultural values of which I had been ignorant. Exploring multiethnic texts was an important means by which I developed myself as a well-rounded student and cultivated a curiosity in ideas outside of my own experience.
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3 Ways a Literature Course Can Benefit Premed Students originally appeared on usnews.com