Moving Us Closer To Osler
A Miller Coulson Academy of Clinical Excellence Initiative

What aspects of your undergrad studies apply to your work today?


Many physicians share how undergrad classes in the arts and humanities helped shape their practice today.

Lifelong Learning in Clinical Excellence | July 27, 2018 | <1 min read


Margaret Chisolm, MD, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine

I went to college at the University of Colorado-Boulder, planning to major in molecular biology. Although I did well in my math and science courses, I liked the two film history courses I took more. So, after my freshman year, I transferred to a new college (UMBC) where I could major in visual arts with a concentration in film. I later took additional post-baccalaureate courses to apply to medical school.


My depth of experience in viewing and writing about visual art has enhanced my observation and academic writing skills. More importantly, it has encouraged curiosity about the human condition to promote more personalized care of patients.


Panagis Galiatsatos, MD, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine

Medicine allows for the sciences and humanities to come together in a manner that is practical and important for both healthcare professionals and patients. 


I draw on my knowledge of physics to remind myself how patients with asthma breathe (e.g. Ohm’s Law), and I draw on my knowledge of my philosophy classes to help me understand my patient’s identities (e.g. teachings of Jean Paul-Sartre). 


And I rely on my art class teachings, which has allowed me to have a watchful eye as I perform my physical exams.


Medicine is truly a profession that warrants all of human knowledge in order to be effective.

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Laura Hanyok, MD, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine

While I was in college I worked at Safeway during the summer and on winter breaks. Working as a cashier at a grocery store taught me so much about working in healthcare!


You interact directly with the public. You are always “on” – meaning unless you are on your 15 minute break, you are available to help the members of the public shopping in your store.


It teaches you a lot about people. People have lots of different personalities and lots of different ways of communicating, and while working in the grocery store I learned how to try to meet the needs of all of the people we serve. That comes in handy a lot as a primary care doctor.

William Greenough, MD, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine

As a freshman at Amherst College we were asked to say hello to everyone we met to break the ice to get to know them.


This carries over to being sure the first thing I do when meeting a patient and their family or caregivers that I start with a hello from one human to another; not as a doctor to a patient, and, if possible, in non-emergent settings to find out at least one thing  outside of their medical problems what at least one of their interests is.


The other element from college I learned was how to answer a question with data and facts – not accepting simple speculations or authority and dogmas.

Mike Fingerhood, MD, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine

As an undergraduate, my favorite classes were in the humanities, including “Playwriting” and “Writing for Mass Media.” This led me to become a writer and later an editor for my college newspaper. The skills I learned from these classes were extremely valuable as I chose a career in academic medicine, writing two books, many manuscripts, and contributing to CLOSLER!