Liberal arts training pays lifelong benefits - even for doctors

A well-rounded education makes a well-rounded physician

An increasing number of students at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai come from humanities backgrounds—and soon they may make up even more of their classes, Julie Rovner reports for NPR's "Shots."

Since 1987, the school has offered a path into medicine for humanities majors from top liberal arts colleges through the HuMed program. Now, officials are revamping and expanding that into FlexMed by opening the program to applicants in every major from every school. Eventually, 50% of incoming classes will be part of FlexMed.

Students apply sophomore year of college and are expected to continue their non-science studies for the remainder of their undergraduate career. Mount Siani provides more pre-med courses for the students over the summers.

HuMed originally began to offset worries that medical school applicants were too similar and "too single-minded," writes Rovner. The program's Nathan Kase, then-dean of medical education, firmly believed "you couldn't be a good doctor and a well-rounded doctor... unless you really had a good grounding in the liberal arts," says David Muller, the current dean of medical education.

The science classes typical of pre-med tracks "exclude people from medical school that we desperately need," says Muller.

Studies show HuMed students are just as successful as their traditional peers, says Rovner, and they are more likely to go into primary care or psychiatry—both high-need areas.

"I think the cross-fertilization of ideas that goes on... ultimately everyone benefits from it," says Harsh Chawla, a third-year traditional medical student (Rovner, "Shots," NPR, 5/27).

Thoughts on the story? Tweet us at @eab_daily and let us know.

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