Class of 2018 Student Profiles

Drew Davis

DREW DAVIS

My name is Drew Davis and I am a senior English major, Medical Humanities, Health, and Culture minor with a pre-medical concentration. In the summers after my freshman and sophomore years I worked in a lab researching heart and lung transplantation. At Boston College I am involved in the Medical Humanities Journal which publishes the medical humanities related work of BC students twice a year. When I arrived at Boston College I was torn between my passion for English and a desire to work in medicine. I was introduced to the Medical Humanities minor by a friend and decided to take the Introduction to Medical Humanities course taught by Professor Laura Tanner. The class was fascinating because I felt it turned the human experience with medicine into a compassionate, understandable story. It felt like the perfect intersection of two things I loved: artistic expression and the realm of healthcare. This theme of integrating multiple ideas and topics, which seem separate when viewed from afar, is what makes the minor special. I found it hard not to enjoy classes focusing on everything from the genetic connections between us to the public health experiences of specific cultures. There is no doubt in my mind that I otherwise would have never stumbled upon these compelling topics.

The minor also introduced me to the engaging Park Street Speaker Series, in which different public figures and authors come to Boston College to talk about issues relating to medical humanities. Paul Farmer’s zealous discussion of the issues facing universal health care, as well as Meghan O’Rourke’s powerful conversation about the mysteries of chronic illness, pushed me to ask questions about the human medical interaction that changed the way I viewed my ideal future role in whichever community I work in. I came to realize that I was interested in medicine because of the connections that exist between patients and doctors, as well as the more abstract, psychological relationship between patient and illness. These links are based on issues of expression and communication, and the minor helped me realize that what I truly want is to understand and take part in these interactions.

I initially saw the minor as a possible link between English and medicine but it became so much more than that. My exposure to the various representations of the body, both mental and psychological, shifted my perspective on the goal behind medicine. My visualization of my future role as a doctor has grown to encompass much more than being just a biological problem-solver. Wherever I end up later in life, I know the questions I faced and the lessons I learned through the Medical Humanities minor will continue to give me clarity and inspiration.

Megan Fickes

MEGAN FICKES

My name is Megan Fickes and I’m a senior Applied Psychology and Human Development in the Lynch School of Education, minoring in Medical Humanities, Health, and Culture and Political Science. As my major and minors may indicate, I’ve always had a wide range of interests and passions and I’ve, at times, wrestled with determining what exactly I want to do. While I love my courses in the Lynch school, I’ve always felt innately drawn to health, especially as it applies to how we understand the human condition. When I came across the Medical Humanities minor in my freshman year I was immediately drawn to its central belief: that at the core of medicine and healthcare is the human spirit. Beyond the natural sciences, treating and caring for people intrinsically involves seeing a patient as more than a diagnosis—it means seeing a patient holistically, with empathy and kindness.

My introductory Medical Humanities course, taught by Professor Boesky, has been my favorite class while at Boston College. Professor Boesky challenged us to dive into difficult subjects we’re often far too content to ignore—pain, illness, even death—and consider the manifold meanings of health and happiness, of what it means to live a full life, of what it means to be mortal. In my subsequent Global Public Health and Contemporary Public Health classes, taught by Professor Edmonds and Professor Hawkins, I realized my passion for health equity, grounded in the fundamental belief that health for all is a human right, not a privilege.

These classes, along with my experience as a member of the editorial board of the Medical Humanities Journal, have been some of the most fulfilling and happy parts of my time at BC. As a result of the minor, I interned for the Schwartz Center for Compassionate Healthcare, a non-profit in Boston that aims to promote compassion and empathy in caregiving among health professionals. As part of my internship I interviewed doctors, nurses, and PAs about the meaning of empathic caregiving, and their responses resonated with me in much the same way my MH classes have. My experience at the Schwartz Center, in tandem with my passion for Medical Humanities, has since led me to decide to pursue a career as a nurse practitioner. While it was a path I originally hadn’t considered, I know my decision is in large part due to the experience I’ve had with the minor and for that I am so immensely grateful.

Alexander Prete

ALEXANDER PRETE

My name is Alexander Prete and I am a senior pre-medicine student majoring in Biochemistry and minoring in Medical Humanities, Health, and Culture. Upon entering Boston College I was certain that my future career aspirations lay in the field of medicine. However, in addition to my strong desire to study the physical body, I was also intrigued with investigating the more abstract aspects of human relations, specifically in terms of health. The role of the physician involves being a healer as well as a scientist, and I was therefore interested in deepening my understanding of the human response to illness in the hopes of using this knowledge to provide my future patients with care that respects their fears, emotions, and desires. In line with these occupational goals, I declared a minor in Medical Humanities, Health, and Culture, a decision that has deeply enhanced my academic experience at Boston College.

In Professor Tanner’s Introduction to Medical Humanities class, I was exposed to the psychological and societal dimensions of health expressed through literary modes such as poems, prose, and even a graphic novel. Aided by Professor Tanner’s exquisite reading selections, I was encouraged to question various aspects of the medical process, especially the social conventions that define “physical abnormality” and what it means to be “healthy.” Notwithstanding these perplexing texts, the greatest reward came from discussion with other classmates. Likeminded in the sense that we were all driven by a desire to approach medicine in a manner apart from the scientific, each of us offered diverse opinions and perspectives clearly shaped from past experiences with disease and healthcare. Having gleaned new insights into the humane side of medicine I was able to apply this learning to several collegiate undertakings and medical internships.

I currently serve as the Editor of Layout for the Medical Humanities Journal of Boston College, an interdisciplinary publication through which the student body is able to express experiences, opinions, and studies involving the intersection of health, society, and the individual. In determining the final order and presentation of accepted entries, I work to portray the realities that the journal enumerates in a manner that reflects the deep impact that illness has on the human experience. This creative task involves experimenting with formatting, fonts, colors, and artistic works in an effort to create a cohesive product that is visually appealing and mentally provocative. This position has also introduced me to invaluable friends and academic colleagues, all of whom are driven, accomplished, and hardworking teammates with a desire to communicate medical humanities to a wide audience. I utilize the creative and collaborative skills cultivated through my work with the journal on a daily basis at the Harvard School of Medicine, where I perform research in a laboratory in the Department of Hematology. My project involves a highly translational, “benchtop to bedside” study that investigates mechanisms that can be utilized to effectively store blood platelets in cold temperatures, thus increasing the shelf life of platelet donations in order to provide lifesaving transfusions to chemotherapy patients and those unable to produce the essential clotting factors. In addition to comprehending biological principles, this work involves an understanding of medical ethics, as the drugs and methods utilized in the laboratory will need to undergo human trials before approval from the American Red Cross and subsequent widespread use.

I look forward to the challenges, elations, and “Aha!” moments that my studies in the medical humanities will bring this coming semester. I am especially excited to begin my advanced seminar in the minor, Professor Vicini’s Global Health and Theological Ethics, a class taught at the School of Theology and Ministry. Through this course I hope to gain a profound understanding of world health inequality and how religious institutions have addressed these issues, compounding this new knowledge with past lessons from other humanities classes. The interdisciplinary nature of this minor has allowed me to integrate what I learn in various biology lectures and labs with the human response, marrying the sciences and the liberal arts in such a manner as to generate a holistic study of medicine, the person, and the global community. Through my medical humanities experiences I have been able to more effectively participate in the ongoing dialogue of disease, cultivating critical thinking skills and interpersonal relations that will be used to improve the quality of life for all.

Sarah Ramsey

SARAH RAMSEY

My name is Sarah Ramsey and I am a senior majoring in Operations Management at the Carroll School, with a minor in Medical Humanities, Health, and Culture. Upon entering Boston College I had no clear path with regards to my course of studies, let alone my future career. The Appalachia Volunteers of Boston College provided me with my first pivotal experience that placed me on that path. Freshman spring break I went down to Hollywood, SC, to serve the community. The area was plagued by poverty and a general lack of resources, and I was able to see first-hand how poor health restricts people from living happy lives. Some community members did not have access to clean running water so there was a pump at the center of town.  Others could not afford to maintain their homes, so sewage lay in their backyards. An overwhelming majority did not have a proper diet, whether it was due to a lack of healthy food options, or a limited knowledge of why diet and exercise are important. After arriving back at BC I knew I wanted to incorporate health into my curriculum and decided to apply to the minor that spring. Following my acceptance was yet another game changer that impacted not only my academic experience at BC, but extracurriculars, and ultimately, my career.

The Introduction to Medical Humanities course taught by Professor Tanner has been my favorite class at BC so far. Professor Tanner provided us with a large repertoire of medical humanities topics that we delved into through various forms of expression. We read books, poetry, and articles; we watched movies and short clips, we viewed artwork; and we discussed our opinions every single day. She posed hard questions surrounding the patient, caregiver, and doctor’s experiences, in order for us to form our own beliefs. She taught me how pain can debilitate, isolate, and destroy one’s identity. But she also taught me how kindness and empathy can attempt to heal these wounds. Tanner’s course allowed me to not only connect my own personal experiences to medical humanities but also to relay the themes forward to choose a career in which I can make an impact on health.

Since then I have become the Managing Editor for the Medical Humanities Journal at Boston College. Every semester I get excited when we receive submissions from students who share similar passions and interests and who articulately portray medical humanities in their daily lives. I have also continued to write poetry and narratives as a way to make sense of real life events that are tied to health. I have interned at Doc Wayne Youth Services, Inc. as their Non Profit Management Intern. The organization fuses sport and therapy to heal and strengthen at risk youth in the greater Boston area. This internship made me realize that I could fuse my passion for health with my business skills. I was also able to witness the more clinical side of their operation when I volunteered to work as a sports coach and work directly with the children. Lastly this summer before senior year I am working at Next Street Financial, a consulting firm that is also a benefit corporation. I have really enjoyed my work and appreciate Next Street’s commitment to advising non-profits, small businesses, healthcare companies, and other firms who make a positive impact on their communities. As of right now I am hoping to go into healthcare consulting upon graduating from BC, and aspire to utilize my business skills to create health opportunities.

The interdisciplinary nature of the Medical Humanities minor allows students to see how empathy, pain, and health are embedded into every aspect of life. It gives them perspective on what it means to be a good doctor, caregiver, patient, and person. I am excited to not only continue with the minor while at BC, but to see how it impacts me beyond.

Samantha Ng

Samantha Ng

My name is Samantha Ng and I am a senior studying Marketing with minors in Studio Art, and Medical Humanities, Health, and Culture. In high school health and health care were subjects that I became interested in. I found myself looking at colleges for nutrition, but ultimately decided that this was too limiting for me. When I decided to attend Boston College, I settled on the idea that I would not have the opportunity to study health in the classroom setting, instead I would pursue it outside the classroom.

This mind-set quickly changed as I discovered the public health classes offered at BC. These classes taught me that health is broad and wide reaching. It showed me that my interest in health can be applied to much more than my limited and traditional idea of what health is. At the same time, I started realizing health had begun to seep its way into my life in unexpected ways. I had integrated it into my English essays, my art pieces, and it also drew me to my involvement in the Office of Health Promotion. Additionally, when it came time to pick my PULSE placement, a year-long service program at BC, I found that I was primarily interested in working at placements related to health and I ended up at Women’s Hope, a drug addiction treatment center for women.

As I began to learn about the broad scope of health, I was disappointed that BC did not offer a public health minor. However, I eventually learned about the Medical Humanities Minor through a roommate who was in the minor and involved with the Medical Humanities Journal of Boston College. I was drawn to Medical Humanities almost immediately and was excited at the ability to explore health from multiple and unexpected angles.

This minor has made me to think about health in my everyday experience and has helped shape my interests. This past summer I was a marketing intern for a company that works to improve cancer research and care, Flatiron Health. The previous classes I have taken, such as the public health classes and the Introduction to Medical Humanities class, have aided me in my internship. They have taught me to look at health from different angles and have shown me that I can integrate my seemingly unrelated interests in health, marketing, and art. This minor has taught me to think about health humanistically, reminding me of those on the receiving end of care. I am grateful for the unique lens that Medical Humanities has given me and hope to expand this view with my future experiences.