Professor and Chairman, Department of Radiology, University of Toledo College of Medicine
Grad Year: 1963
Other areas of sudy/degree(s):
Can the study of English language and literature make better doctors?
There is an unhealthy political movement prompted by financial concerns in which the state governments are pressuring liberal arts Universities to concentrate and reward Applied Science, Math and Engineering as subjects that will more quickly provide increased revenue through taxation of new wealth. In Ohio, where I teach, this movement is called "STEM II." I find it appalling for a number of reasons, as an educator in medicine, specifically radiology, and the reasons go directly to your question, "why major in English:" But first, to give you my answers:
1. I attended the University of Michigan for two reasons. First, to get educated, as I believed a liberal arts education was the key to maximally enjoying my life, and appreciating both what has gone before me, as well as what is occurring around me in the present. Being an English Major allowed me to read the great works of geniuses who preceded us all, as well as those who were creating my present society. And it provided great pleasure at the same time.
2. I had always found Math and Science interesting, and English as well, but frankly, (and probably a common occurrence for you), I was not as talented in English criticism and creative writing as I had thought. After trying every other major, I finally took a great chance and majored in English because it was not only fascinating, but also because it represented the greatest challenge to excel, and since I was also a "premedical student," that was of some concern. (Students become so concerned with their grade point average that they won't take a chance at a difficult subject.) I wanted to strengthen a weakness, not just move on to my vocation.
3. There is no doubt that my major in English stimulated critical observation and developed a creative yet logical writing style that served me well throughout my career. I knew, like most, that the aesthetic value of a liberal arts education was not subject to argument. And critical and lateral thinking, followed by written expression is obvious. But the functionality, the usefulness on a day in and day out basis was amazing, and totally unexpected. Letters, articles, books, clear and concise memos and instructions, all written quickly and easily. Nuts and bolts. That is English to me.
And the process and content learned in a English Major lasts a lifetime.
What serendipity! I never knew. It was blind faith at the time, but I have been consciously aware ever since what a perfect choice it was for me. And so unexpectedly practical.
And to conclude a thought presented in the first paragraph, STEM II and programs like it do not understand that they are creating physicians with hardly any creativity or understanding, empathy or critical thinking. Many can not write, nor do they bother to try. We are now educating very technically adept physicians that can not think laterally, or adequately describe what they are doing, or want to accomplish. It is directly impacting medical care, as you can probably guess. At a teaching hospital in New York they are now experimenting with the reading of English literature during rounds and find it impacting patient care and physician empathy.
Faith Adler Brown, Erin Crowley, Dory Gannes, Aric Knuth, Lawrence Landman, Katherine MacNair, Howard Markel, MD, PhD, Sarah Marwil Lamstein, Kelly O’Connor McNees, Amanda Richardson, Michael Richman, Melissa Shook, Rebecca Soares, Kurt Taroff, Lisa Vandenbossche, Lee Woldenberg, Anne Wyman, Sanjay Mohanty
Related Career FieldsEducation, Health and Wellness, Medicine