• Jamila Raja

Journalism to Med School | Majors: Pre-Health



I started my undergraduate experience with the idea that I was going to be like Sanjay Gupta, a practicing physician that also does correspondence with CNN. It was the perfect job. One where I can combine all the various things I enjoy into one career, but it was always interesting trying to navigate my education when the end goal wasn’t the same as my peers.


A question I got about a million times was why I wasn’t majoring in a hard science or health related field. I didn’t really have an answer to that except, “Why not?” Medical schools don’t have much of a preference when it comes to what you majored in, so I decided to pursue an area that I knew I could enjoy and gain skills that my peers at medical school don’t have. By the end of my four years I had created a podcast, made an iPhone app, learned to tell stories with VR software, and had become an editor at one of the school publications.


In between all these projects I was taking the required courses for medical school. Essentially, the slots that would have been my electives were taken up by the required sciences. In my eyes, it was a good trade off. Sure, I didn’t get to take the “cool classes” UT had to offer, but I wasn’t having a bad time from being in a program that I didn’t truly enjoy.


The second most common question I get about my education was how my journalism degree has helped in medical school. Right off the bat one of my first courses in medical school, clinical medicine, had multiple modules on communication. In fact, the more I go through that course and practice my doctoring skills, the more I’m seeing that the difference between a decent doctor and a good doctor is communication.


For four years in undergrad I learned how to ask the right questions, gather information, and present that information so that everyone down the line can understand it without missing out on important details. Being a doctor is just a version of that. You talk to patients, you find out what is wrong (sometimes you have to dig), and you have to communicate it to multiple people, including your patient who probably doesn’t have the same medical knowledge as you so you’ll have to “translate.” It’s very much a skill you have to practice and I’ve been a lot more comfortable because it feels very close to the process of developing a news package.


Healthcare is a massive field that will only benefit from having diverse people, so I always tell students that are just starting university to pick a major that you think you will enjoy and that will give you interesting and applicable experiences. You’ll have to learn the science stuff regardless, so may as well take advantage of the time (and your university’s resources) to learn other things.


The greatest barrier to pursuing our interests in undergraduate studies, is often our own beliefs. We like to think that we must follow the beaten track: major in a science, follow in the footsteps of the mentors and blogs and mentors we've had and read, and we'll get to where we want to go. And yes, although this is most certainly true, it is not the case that you will be any less successful pursuing your own major, if it differs from the established track. What it takes, is hard work, a willingness to stick through the tough classes when you enjoy your major classes so much more, to slog it out studying for the MCAT, and everything else that makes the route to medical school so selective and tough. What it comes down to, is do you have the real passion for saving lives and helping people? If so, nothing will stop you on your way to becoming a doctor.


Writing on a Notebook

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