Many common pre-medicine majors - Biology, Chemistry, Bioengineering, etc. - require many more than twelve upper-division courses. A pre-med student who completed the History major alongside the prerequisites needed to enter into medical school will graduate more quickly and still be well-prepared for a medical career.
Indeed, the practice of medicine is often referred to as “the Art and Science of Medicine.” Prerequisite undergraduate requirements in math and science are necessary, but not sufficient. The successful doctor also needs a keen mind with critical insight into complex problems, creative solutions for those problems, and the ability to explain those solutions in a compelling manner. A major in History is an excellent complement to the pre-medical math and science requirements. Medical schools look mostly at your GPA and your MCAT scores; but they also seriously consider your clinical experience, your personal essay, your recommendation letters, and your personal interview. The ability to communicate well in writing and in person is also critical not only for your admission to medical school but to your success as a physician.
In the U.S. today, the best-prepared doctors have learned about the incredible variety of human experience over time so they can relate to patients and their families from all over the globe, from all religious traditions, and from all walks of life. As one of our graduates, who currently works in anti-infective drug development and is an attending physician for the Infectious Diseases fellows at UC Davis School of Medicine, put it: “My major in History at UCSD laid the foundation for my study and career in medicine. The study of History involves the evaluation of primary sources and utilizing that information to create a construct to explain a person, place or event. In much the same way, I take a history from a patient, review available diagnostic studies and come to conclusions regarding my patient's ailment. This exercise in critical thinking is crucial, not just in arriving at the correct diagnosis, but reaching that goal in an expeditious and most effective manner in an environment of ever greater resource constraints.”
Many doctors testify to the importance of undergraduate study in History. “I took an American History class that solidified my interest in going into medicine. The professor opened my eyes to the history of the common people. He stressed the importance of listening to people’s stories as a means of understanding the diversity and richness of human experience. This love of listening to people’s stories was one of my inspirations for becoming a physician – to have that special opportunity to be trusted by people from all walks of life with their most intimate stories, and to have an opportunity to shape those ongoing stories in a positive manner.” - Dr. David Morgenroth, physician, teacher at the University of Washington, and researcher specializing in the biomechanics of amputated limbs, including work for the Veterans’ Administration. Quoted in AlumNotes 40.2 (Fall 2013), p. 7.
History Majors planning a career in medicine should consider taking the below listed courses.
HILD 30. History of Public Health
HISC 106. The Scientific Revolution
HISC 108. Life Sciences in the Twentieth Century
HISC 110. Historical Encounters of Science and Religion
HISC 115. History of Modern Medicine
HISC 116. History of Bioethics
HISC 117. History of the Neurosciences
HISC 173/273. Darwin and Darwinisms
HISC 174/274. History of Localization of Brain Function
HIUS156. American Women/American Womanhood, Colonial Era to 1870
HIUS157. American Women/American Womanhood, 1870 to the Present
HITO 140. History of Emotions
HIEU 154: Modern Germany (includes a focus on eugenics)