Rice U. humanities students gain new pathway into medical school

Assured acceptance program through McGovern Medical School will bring more intellectual diversity into health care

Humanities students interested in health care careers will have a new pathway into medical school thanks to an agreement struck between Rice University and the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth).

Medical School Humanities Program

Photo credit: 123rf.com

The Medical School Humanities Program at Rice is the first of its kind in the United States and a response to a nationwide demand for more intellectual diversity among medical school applicants. Rice students majoring in such humanities fields as history, philosophy, English and the Study of Women, Gender and Sexuality will complement their Bachelor of Arts degrees with undergraduate coursework in biochemistry, physics, organic chemistry and related fields.

After they successfully finish the program and meet its other requirements, which include a minimum GPA of 3.7 GPA and Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT) score of 510, the students will gain admission to the McGovern Medical School. Up to eight qualified Rice juniors a year will be accepted into the program.

“The Medical School Humanities Program is very much an expression of shared convictions on the part of Rice Humanities and UT’s McGovern Medical School, and that shared conviction is that medicine needs more humanities-trained doctors,” said Kirsten Ostherr, the Gladys Louise Fox Professor of English and founding director of the Medical Humanities program at Rice.

"Medicine needs more humanities-trained doctors," said Kirsten Ostherr, the Gladys Louise Fox Professor of English and founding director of the Medical Humanities program at Rice.

“Medicine needs more humanities-trained doctors,” said Kirsten Ostherr, the Gladys Louise Fox Professor of English and founding director of the Medical Humanities program at Rice.

“The humanities bring a dimension to understanding social and cultural differences, to understanding the role of history, to understanding how different forms of communication shape patient outcomes – skills we know on the humanities side are incredibly valuable to students as they grow into becoming future doctors,” she said. “And what’s really gratifying to us is that medical schools are not just recognizing the value of those skills but actively seeking out students with those skills.”

The new assured admissions program builds on the university’s long-standing relationship with the Texas Medical Center and the School of Humanities’ popular interdisciplinary Medical Humanities program.

“The Medical School Humanities Program will give encouragement to those whose inclination or passion might be within the humanities to apply and be successful in medical school,” said Margaret McNeese, vice dean for admissions and student affairs at UTHealth’s McGovern Medical School. “These are people who are often discouraged and do not apply to medical school, and I’d like to prove to everybody that these individuals are as good as anybody we’ve got.”

“We’re supposed to be training physicians for the 21st century and these individuals need a broader background than just science,” she said. “Being able to walk into a room and deal with patients using that broader background can be an asset.”

“Our aim at the School of Humanities is to respond to the nation’s need for the development of a more humane and equitable health care system that provides benefits to all through ethical, culturally informed medical training and practice," said Kathleen Canning, dean of the School of Humanities and the Andrew Mellon Professor of History.

“Our aim at the School of Humanities is to respond to the nation’s need for the development of a more humane and equitable health care system,” said Kathleen Canning, dean of the School of Humanities and the Andrew Mellon Professor of History.

“Throughout time, the physician has been called upon to render complex ethical judgments and assess questions of value,” said Kathleen Canning, dean of the School of Humanities and the Andrew Mellon Professor of History. “Familiarity with humanistic thinking can sharpen self-awareness and openness to the experiences of others.

“Through this collaboration with the McGovern Medical School, we seek to meet high student demand and faculty interest while attracting new scholars focused on the humanistic dimensions of medicine,” she said. “Our aim at the School of Humanities is to respond to the nation’s need for the development of a more humane and equitable health care system that provides benefits to all through ethical, culturally informed medical training and practice.”

“This new program is a natural collaboration for McGovern Medical School. Our medical school teaching is rooted in understanding the scientific basis of health and disease bolstered by compassionate care and teaching the appreciation of medical history and the humanities through our McGovern Center for Humanities and Ethics,” said Barbara J. Stoll, dean of McGovern Medical School and H. Wayne Hightower Distinguished Professor. “Our students, residents, alumni, faculty and staff work every day to carry on the McGovern ideals of excellence, humanism and compassion.”

“This collaborative program represents a fantastic example of how all of Rice can successfully connect with institutions of the TMC,” said Rice Provost Marie Lynn Miranda. “I am delighted that this new opportunity has become available for our very talented humanities students.”

Rice students in their junior year may submit applications to the Medical School Humanities Program beginning Fall 2019. The first cohort of students will be accepted into the program Spring 2020.

About Katharine Shilcutt

Katharine Shilcutt is a media relations specialist in Rice University's Office of Public Affairs.