Sallyportal: Madly Blogging Reed

Medicine—the Unsung Liberal Art?

Biochemist Kevan Shokat ’86 offered career insight at a workshop on healthcare and the cure of illness at Working Weekend.

A workshop on Global Healthcare and Cure of Illness over Working Weekend gave students valuable insight into how to use their Reed education to pursue careers in the healing arts and sciences.

Many of the two-dozen students in attendance came to the workshop looking for guidance on how to break into the world of medicine: what internships and volunteer gigs to look for, when to take the MCAT, how to choose a medical school.

But hospitalist Kjell Benson ’91, still in scrubs after a night shift at Adventist Medical Center, advised them to take a step back: “You have to get your heart going. Then you’ll write your resume.”

That theme was repeated throughout the discussion, which took place as part of Working Weekend, an annual event organized by the Center for Life Beyond Reed geared toward getting students to think about career possibilities. The panelists, all Reed alumni, represented a wide range of medical fields. Along with Benson, students heard from:

Heather Helming ’95, an osteopathic physician at a community health center in Pomona, California;

Kevan Shokat ’86, a pharmacological researcher and professor at UCSF and UC-Berkeley;

Leah Savitsky ’10, a third-year medical student at OHSU;

Aravind Sankar ’91, a transplant surgeon based in Austin, Texas, and

Tom McNalley ’83, a professor of physical medicine and rehabilitation at the University of Washington.

Many of the panelists came to medicine via circuitous routes and emphasized the value of an education in the humanities and a variety of life experiences to a medical career. “I don’t think you can do this without some training in the humanities,” said McNalley, who taught German for 15 years, including one year at Reed, before deciding to become a doctor.

Benson—who spent a year in seminary before heading to medical school—echoed that sentiment. “People who are both humanists and scientists make better doctors,” he said.

The panel wrapped up with small group sessions where students discussed their near-term goals. For Marika Swanberg ’19, that means volunteering at Planned Parenthood and working on her Spanish.

“Let go of what’s off on the horizon and focus on what’s in front of you today,” Sankar urged participants. “It works out.”

That was welcome advice to Aoife Hough ’19. “Medicine can look like this impenetrable fortress, so it’s really comforting being told, ‘You can do it if you want to.’”