I write this as I sit in “Mammalian Physiology,” wondering why I find myself preparing for a consulting interview. Our professor just showed us a new biotech development, one that connects a mechanical arm to the somatosensory cortex — a beautiful medical development that elicited starry-eyed astonishment from everyone in the class, myself included.
If it’s so clear to me that I love medicine, why am I wearing a suit?
Everyone knows at least one person at Georgetown who is pre-med, and if not, at least one person who started out pre-med. Everyone knows, then, that it is likely the university’s most rigorous academic path (I took accounting — I don’t want to hear it, MSB). The science departments are not bad — the professors genuinely do the best they can — the curriculum is just hard, as it ought to be.
Georgetown’s undergraduate acceptance rate to medical school hovers around 90 percent, a staggering figure considering that virtually all U.S. medical schools accept less than 5 percent of applicants. Are we really that smart, or is something else going on?
What looks impressive on the surface has a more sobering story underneath. Georgetown achieves this prized statistic by weeding people off the pre-med track, slowly but surely. Does the College really need to require 38 courses, when pre-meds could achieve 120 credits with far fewer classes (given all the labs we take)? Is it absolutely necessary that so many people fail every exam in “Organic Chemistry?” Perhaps these are just questions of merit — the tough doctor attitude: If you cannot handle this, you cannot handle medical school.
The more prominent problem, to me, happens behind the closed doors of a few deans’ offices. I have numerous friends who were quietly advised — not through force, but through subtle suggestion — to drop pre-med and look at other options. More directly, students are compelled to seek a recommendation from the pre-med committee as they apply to medical schools.
The committee responds in one of five ways: highest recommended, highly recommended, recommended, recommended with reservation or they do not send a recommendation at all. But should Georgetown really make anyone show up to a medical school interview empty-handed and have to explain why their own school does not think they should be a doctor?
I understand the concern. By recommending everyone, the school may dilute the importance of its praise; but are four degrees of recommendation insufficient to this end? Even if those non-recommended students are not optimal candidates, the role of the university should be in facilitating its students’ dreams, not in actively crushing them.
This is not an indictment on the administration; most elite schools will weed students out. There is, however, something peculiarly difficult about being pre-med at Georgetown. The glorification of finance and consulting seeps into every crevice of this school, and over four years, gradually into our own veins.
It’s your roommate’s copy of the Wall Street Journal on the dining table every morning. It’s conversation fodder, at parties or at clubs, where so many jokes revolve around market-sizing Natural Light or the potential leveraged buyout of another club. It’s the walk down glamorous M Street, even just to get Chipotle. It’s partying in townhouses worth millions of dollars. It’s knowing that most of your friends will be in New York next year. It’s all of Hoya Career Connection. And it’s that almost-tangible dismissal in the first month of senior year, when people ask what you did over the summer and you respond with “MCAT” rather than “Goldman Sachs.”
My father was a physician, as was his father. Growing up, I remember sitting around the Christmas tree listening to stories of heroic resuscitations and anxiously awaiting my chance to live this life.
After four years, however, Georgetown’s infectious white-collar culture has a way of idealizing a different set of dreams. When I imagine myself in one year, the idea — a nice apartment in New York, happy hour with friends, vacationing all over the world — is inescapably alluring. But when I think of myself in 30 years, the idea of being in business makes me cringe and the idea of being in a hospital makes me giddy.
So I ask myself once again: if I know I love medicine, why am I wearing a suit?
Josh Puthumana is a senior in the College.
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