How the grass looks greener for Biology, Chemistry, and Medical Sciences majors and what us humanities, engineering, and other non-traditional pre-med majors can do to make our own grass bloom.
I’ll get to my point quickly: The grass seems greener on the traditional side because biology and chemistry majors seem like they are ‘doing the thing.’ My phrase ‘doing the thing’ is an informal summary of my feelings that traditional pre-med majors are already preparing themselves to be doctors. It is not obvious that an art major can be a doctor. It is not obvious that a communications major can be a doctor. It is not obvious that me, a materials engineer, can be a doctor.
As an engineering student, one of the worst courses I took was differential equations. Differential equations is calculus and linear algebra on steroids. As fascinating as it was to learn how to model liquid flow and other physical phenomena, I highly doubt that any physician ever has had to solve a differential equation to diagnose their patients. The most difficult math I have heard of a physician solving is the calculation of blood pressure or drug dosages. For that, I was jealous of the normal, traditional pre-meds. I was equally jealous that they had room in their degree plans to take Anatomy and Physiology. While they got a first-hand exposure over how the body worked, I sat in multiple metallurgy and physics courses wondering what the point of my tuition was.
I always felt behind adding pre-med halfway through an engineering degree. How would I ever catch up to these people that have been preparing for medical school with at least three years of their undergraduate degrees? Even in all my prerequisite courses, the traditional majors seemed to know more than I ever will. I wanted to be on their level, but alas I locked myself into a major I was growing to hate.
But now that I’m have graduated with a B.S. in Materials Engineering? I would not change a thing.
Sure, the traditional majors had a lot of green on their side because they were exploring the intricacies of biology and chemistry. I realized my senior year that I could respect this without being jealous, so I got pretty good at figuring out how to water my own pre-med yard.
Some of my curricula was still a stretch to apply to medicine, but other topics such as biomaterials or surgical implants had a direct connection between materials engineering and medicine. I used to envy kinesiology majors for taking a Biomechanics course, but after my Static and Dynamic mechanics courses, I was able to give a mechanical engineering perspective to the biomechanical math of joints.
I even found common ground within my Technical Writing course! I recently updated my remote check box for my pacemaker. I was required to download an app on my phone, connect the box to my phone’s bluetooth, and learn how to operate the box during a remote check. Even as a hybrid Gen-Z/Millenial, if not for clear-cut directions or images, I would have had difficulty setting up my new box. Without the technical communication or artwork provided by the company, I could have easily ended up being non-compliant with my treatment without even knowing it.
If you are not earning a traditional pre-med degree in your undergraduate career as a pre-med, please have no fear. Take pride in what you are learning, while creating the initiative to figure out how it connects to your passion for medicine. Medicine is always pushing outside of the box. It is always moving forward to seek new ways to treat its patients. Your unique perspective and non-traditional training will make a difference in medicine. Figure what your uniqueness is!
Do not be discouraged, fellow non-traditional pre-med. I am proud of us!