A Sociological Approach to Medicine

- By Haley Fitzgerald (French and sociology majors, pre-med focus)

During spring break of my first year, I took a service-learning trip to Tena, Ecuador. This trip had a profound effect on me, and led me to pursue a major in sociology, rather than the typical majors that students pursuing their pre-med requirements choose.

I went on the trip with an organization called Medlife, a global, medically-based service organization. We served in rural communities, helping to run a mobile medical clinic to bring doctors and medication to people who do not typically have access to medical care. I shadowed physicians and helped move patients through the clinic, getting a lot of hands-on experiences.

We also took one day of the week and worked alongside community members on a service project. On my trip, we helped build a sanitary bathroom for a preschool. Our Medlife Trip coordinator also led nightly educational talks about the effects of global poverty and health inequalities in South America.

Before this trip, I had never truly been faced with the abject poverty much of the world faces. In Ecuador, I observed a multitude of health problems—such as stomach parasites—that would have been easily preventable if the proper resources, such as clean drinking water, were made available to communities. This trip piqued my interest in learning more about health disparities on a global scale, especially relating to institutional oppression, and I chose sociology when I returned.

After graduation, I plan to attend medical school. I am also very interested in serving as a physician with Doctors Without Borders. I feel that my experiences on past and future service trips and my increased knowledge of health disparities will ultimately make me a more effective and empathetic doctor one day.

And, my unique undergraduate experiences in the Dietrich School, blending subjects across disciplines, will set me apart as an applicant to med school.  I am a double major in Sociology and French with a minor in Chemistry, so at any given time I am taking a mixture of natural science, social science, and humanities courses. For me, having this diverse array of courses allows me to grow in ways that wouldn’t be possible if I had only one area of study. In addition, I feel that I am getting the most out of my undergraduate experience because I am studying subjects that I won’t be able to study in medical school.