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Frequently Asked Questions

Who is the MedSoc minor for, exactly? Do you have to be a member of the Honors College to pursue it? How many students are in the minor?

The Medicine & Society minor is open to any and all undergraduates at UH who are interested in gaining a deeper understanding of health and disease-related issues from a variety of perspectives. We have many Honors students, and many pre-meds or students planning on a career in the health professions -- BUT we also have many, many students from numerous other majors and Colleges as well. In fact, with well over three hundred students, it’s one of the biggest minors on campus.

Since everyone is impacted by issues of health and health care in countless ways, we believe it is important to examine such “hard science” topics through a variety of lenses from the humanities and social sciences – literature, history, sociology, philosophy, psychology, and more – and this of course means that having classrooms full of diverse backgrounds, disciplines, and interests is key. No matter what your major, if becoming well-versed in the historical, economical, and cultural forces that inform medical practices today is appealing to you, then there’s a place for you in MedSoc!

I’m a pre-med student, or plan to pursue a career in the health professions immediately after graduation. As someone more focused on the hard sciences, how will the medical humanities courses in MedSoc help me?

Thanks to our course offerings, students in the Medicine & Society minor benefit from a more nuanced and informed appreciation of the experience of illness and health care. With a rise in demand for today’s doctors and caregivers to also possess skills in communication, critical thinking, and an ability to observe problems from a variety of viewpoints, we believe the interdisciplinary framework of our courses to be absolutely essential to effective medical care. By favoring deeper questions over quick answers, and encouraging students to view patients as more than the sum of their diagnoses, the Medicine & Society program strives to produce medical professionals who are not only broadly educated, but compassionate, empathetic, and attentive to individual patient needs as well.

Don’t simply take our word for it, though. Here are links to recently published articles that also speak to the growing demand for elements of a liberal arts education to help strengthen one’s success as a medical school candidate:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/posteverything/wp/2015/02/18/we-dont-need-more-stem-majors-we-need-more-stem-majors-with-liberal-arts-training/

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/life/health-and-fitness/health/how-arts-education-can-help-create-better-doctors/article25802902/

https://today.duke.edu/2015/09/adapanel

Who teaches these courses? Doctors? Lecturers?

As the above idea of an interdisciplinary focus suggests, our faculty also comes from a variety of backgrounds, united by an interest in the effects of health and illness on individual and societal levels. This means a course might be taught by a practicing physician, someone well-versed in the history of medicine, creative writers focused on narrative medicine, professors with extensive experience in community health field work, sociologists, anthropologists, religious studies scholars, and more. Whatever the case, we are confident the courses you take from these faculty members will broaden not only your understanding of medicine, but also your understanding of the role(s) you might play in our current health care landscape.

I keep hearing about recent changes to the MCAT exam. Will a MedSoc minor in any way help me with that?

Yes. The much-discussed changes to the MCAT reflect the same line of thinking outlined above: that more critical thinking and humanities-based outlooks will enhance one’s own medical education.

If you’ve already Google’d “Changes to MCAT,” those searches have no doubt led to extensive information outlining everything from a greater focus on social and behavioral sciences, the expectation that students should now read broadly in the humanities and social sciences, and a greater emphasis on critical analysis and reasoning skills. All of these elements are an inherent part of the kinds of thinking and discussions encouraged and emphasized in the Medicine & Society minor.

For more information about changes to the MCAT, see this link for the actual recommendations for changes to the MCAT from the Association of American Medical Colleges.

Or, here is another essay entitled “Building a Better Physician — The Case for the New MCAT”, from The New England Journal Of Medicine.

How do I declare the minor? When is a good time to do this?

Declaring the MedSoc minor is very easy: simply fill out the form at this link and you’re done! (Within a few days you’ll receive a confirmation email…)

As for when to declare the minor, it’s really up to the individual student. Some incoming freshmen declare it their first semester, while others wait until their sophomore or junior year once they have more time to focus on MedSoc courses. The main thing to remember, though, is that the MedSoc minor requires fifteen hours of coursework to be completed. Also, as the availability of certain courses varies each semester, it can be a good idea to start this coursework earlier on so that you will have ample time to take the specific classes you are most interested in.

Does becoming a MedSoc minor mean I’m now automatically an Honors student?

While MedSoc is based out of the Honors College, as mentioned above, not everyone in MedSoc is actually a member of the Honors College. However, completion of the MedSoc minor does qualify you to graduate with Collegiate Honors – but you do need to apply to the Honors College as a mid-career student and pay the appropriate fees, etc. If you are interested in Collegiate Honors, we do recommend applying sooner rather than later, particularly so you can take advantage of priority registration for the remainder of your semesters at UH.

Simply follow the links, or stop by the front Student Services Office at the Honors College if you would like further info:

Graduation Requirements

Honors Admissions

Why is everyone required to take HON 3301H – Readings in Medicine & Society?

Readings in Medicine & Society is our foundation course. While you are ultimately given a good deal of freedom to explore a variety of topics and disciplines, or to focus on a certain track/interest such as historical medicine or narrative medicine, HON 3301 is intended to bring all of those various disciplines and interests into one room to be discussed, interrogated, and synthesized by being a course everyone must take.

As a pre-med student, I’m still not sure of what the requirements are for getting into a medical school. Do you have any useful links?

Of course! Simply go here.

What kinds of advising are available at the Honors Program in the Health Professions / Medicine & Society office?

Dr. Helen Valier (Director of Medicine & Society) is available for career advising for students planning to immediately enter the health professions after graduation.

Dr. Aaron Reynolds is available for academic advising (including petitions for MedSoc credit and Honors certifications) as well as writing consultations concerning personal statements and essays for medical/professional school applications, etc.

Book an appointment with Dr. Reynolds or Megan Prather online.  

Beyond the offered courses, is there anything else I can be doing as a MedSoc minor that will continue to prepare me for a successful medical career, or to better understand our health care system from a variety of points of view?

Given the wide range of degree opportunities available to UH students in medicine, nursing, dentistry, optometry, and dozens more fields – as well as Houston being home to the largest medical complex in the world, the Texas Medical Center – there is an abundance of ways to round out your undergraduate experience via student groups, extra-curricular activities, visiting speakers, and research opportunities.

One easy way to stay informed about such opportunities would be to join our Facebook Group “Medicine & Society Events & Goings-On”, which serves as a resource for all students interested broadening their health-related education and experiences outside of the classroom.