By: Michael Shavolian  | 

Thank You, Pre-Med

Since my first week at Yeshiva University, I have silently observed the progress of the pre-med friends I have made. I have spent time with them in never-ending labs, in class and at the ever so mandatory meetings called by the Pre-Health Advising Office and have had the chance to form meaningful friendships. But, considering the fact that I have spent the majority of my time in pre-med classes or at pre-med events, I find it surprising that more of my friend’s are not pre-med.

I have a simple explanation. Like other students, I made many of my friends during my first year on campus. From then until now, a large portion of the students I befriended in lecture-size science classes quibbled with pre-med before choosing other paths. Hence, my friendship with many former pre-meds.

Take, for example, Jonathan whom I met a Medical Ethics Society event. We shared lunch on occasion in the dining hall but last I heard of him he had decided to apply to computer science boot camps. Alex, whom I met in an accounting class, indefinitely deferred his application to medical school after working on Wall Street for his gap-semester. Josh, whom I met in General Chemistry, had a turn of heart and chose to enter his father’s jewelry business…perhaps because he realized that after taking so many summer classes at Lehman, he was probably damned as a worthless candidate. Adar, who lived next door to me for a year, settled on hospital administration after switching his major three times.

It’s an unexpected fact when you observe the immense dedication of your friends in General Chemistry or Biology…but, yes: not every pre-med ends up med. So many people, so many ways… it would be a mistake for anyone to dismiss the pre-med track as simply a means of entering medical school. I am still a student at a liberal arts college, an undergraduate at a university, and a seeker of meaning. If you can go through pre-ed without appreciating the pre-med experience then something is amiss.

One of my pre-med friends recently advocated the creation of a Medical Humanities minor in The Commentator. I argue that there already exists a pre-medical humanities experience, one which begs student to not just find the meaning within volunteer shifts or hospital internships, but which encourages students to find the meaning within their pre-medical lives: to satirize it, to expound its difficulties, to laugh at its challenges, and to discuss its shortcomings.

If someone had asked me what I expected of pre-med three years ago, I would have responded: hard work, hard work, and some more hard work… and friends who would stick with me when times got rough. But quite unexpectedly pre-med has been a lot more than that.  Yes, it has made me friends. But it has also molded me into a more mature and self-aware individual-- and I don't mean this in the mushy, corny type of way. I mean it when I say, it is easy for me to find good things about pre-med, things that some retrospection makes me feel thankful for…pre-med lishma (for its own sake), I would call it…(others might call me insane but that's besides the point).

Thank you pre-med for beating me down and challenging me to rise back up and to stay above the (illusory) competition. Thank you for compelling me to get involved in extracurricular activities that I ended up loving for their own sakes. Thank you for making me more determined than sleepless nights spent, not studying, but insomniated because of the protein names spinning in my head. Thank you for teaching me all about CAM cell signaling and how to cure the jitters you suffer when you drink eight cups of coffee. (The answer: drink more coffee). Thank you for being a sure way to predict that any uninitiated interlocutor will reply with a gasp immediately after becoming aware that I am pre-med… without even asking for my name as if he had just learned of my identity as an alien. Thank you for teaching me to be a nearly consummate juggler of work and social life-I don't think I can get it wrong from here forth. Thank you for teaching me the value of dedication and commitment but, simultaneously, that it is OK if hours upon hours of studying sometimes yield a mediocre grade.

Thank you for making me feel directed with all those courses I checked off from the four-year class schedule I created as a freshman… for teaching me that my college experience, or life for that matter, can, in fact, not be reduced to a checklist. I guess somethings take time to learn. But really, for actually not being as bad as I thought you would be…here’s to pre-med. Thank you for allowing me to study the wonders of science. Thank you for making me bigger than my test scores-those little almost meaningless digits- all 28 of them (yes, I counted) that claim to measure my knowledge. Thank you pre-med for ultimately making me bigger...than just pre-med.