I’m a premed, but I didn’t come to Hopkins for its science. Sure, the breadth of Neuroscience courses offered was a huge factor in my decision, and its proximity to the hospital was a definite plus too. But at the end of the day, I chose Hopkins for is flexibility. I knew that after my undergrad, I would have med school, and then residency, and then a life as a physician. I figured, then, that my undergrad education would be the only chance I get to focus on something more than just STEM: a chance to broaden my perspective before I would go on to single out medicine as my lifelong commitment.
While it was extremely important for me that I took all the neuro courses I could get my hands on for four years, I felt it equally important to explore the humanities. And so while on one hand I chose to major in Neuroscience, on the other hand I decided to also major in History of Medicine (I think the full name is like History of Science, Medicine and Technology or some mouthful like that). So far, its given me an incredibly fresh perspective on what it means to be a physician and how dynamic the definition of healing really is. I took History of Medicine and History of Modern Medicine freshman year, and now I’m hooked. I thought there was nothing more I could ask for than to get both the perspective of both applying cutting edge technology to modern medicine while also recognizing how relative the term “modern” really is.
Up until now, that mix of medicine and its history had been confined to the classroom for me. My classes were a clean split of neuroscience courses, history courses, and premed requirements. But it was also skewed towards biomedicine in a sense, because every week I would spend about 10 hours in a wet lab at the School of Medicine researching neural stem cells.
But last week, I was somehow awarded the Woodrow Wilson Research Fellowship, and that imbalance righted itself. The grant gives students $7500 (or 10 stacks if you knew to apply as an incoming freshman) to pursue independent research over the course of your undergrad years in whatever field you want.
I guess I could have applied to take on another project at another lab. But then I let myself slow down and think about what I’ve currently been missing. I’ve never researched history before, I realized. A year ago, I was the kinda guy that would steadfastly declare that the only real research happens on a bench with pipets. But my first semester at Hopkins changed the very definition of research that I had clutched onto for so long. I saw people researching for Economics. For political science. For English.
Instead of bio research, which I’ll still be doing anyways, I decided to focus on history. My project will center on Ayurvedic medicine in colonial India. I want to study the ways in which a spreading Western medicine brought on by British rule interacted with, changed, or in ways did not change the existing body of empirical and holistic medicine that dominated the medicine shelves of Indian households. For my advisor, I picked Dr. Fissell, my incredible professor for History of Medicine first semester (!! TAKE THIS CLASS !!), who’s already been insanely helpful in helping me make sense of how to actually go about my investigation. So far, I’m planning to spend the year with my nose in as many books as I can get a hold of, and then taking a trip to India to comb through eighteenth and nineteenth century local community and medical records to see the ways in which the two bodies of medicine met from the perspective of the colonial Indian household.
Whatever the outcome of the research, I’m just excited to be able to branch out exactly the way I envisioned from the start. More than grant money, Hopkins has given me a platform to experience new fields and entirely new worlds of academia. I still have a long way to go, and I’ll keep you guys updated every step of the way, but this journey sounds like it’s going to be a different one and I honestly can’t wait to get started.