Why science matters in Allied Health

I had the pleasure of attending the 2011 Winter commencement at York College of Pennsylvania yesterday. I’ve now been to 7 commencements since I arrived here in 2008, and I have reached a milestone with the most current event: students who have been in my class are now walking across the stage to receive their diplomas, and this is truly the most fulfilling part of the experience for me.

As most long time followers of YCPMicro know, students fall into two camps with regards to how they react to a basic science course; they either love it or they hate it and there is not a huge amount of middle ground. For the former group, class for me is a fun, engaging, exciting place to be. We had an instance in the 5 PM class just a week ago, where a student asked a question regarding where the AIDS virus came from in human populations. An interesting topic, and one that definitely wasn’t going to be on the exam. I asked the class “Can we digress for just a bit?” and we spent 20 minutes talking about the various theories of HIV epidemiology. A cool discussion, I had a lot of fun with it, and I think the class did too. And again, not on the exam. For the latter group, going to class is tough for me, as I am quite frankly surprised that students sometimes don’t really seem to care about the “How do things work?” questions. To my mind, if you understand how something works, then you can fix it, and that to me is what health care is all about!

Students who struggle with Micro say to me “I don’t see why this is important.” The hardest part of my job is to offer ways to make these connections between scientific concepts and their applications. It’s hard because those connections always came easily for me, and it surprises me when they don’t to others. The making of connections is the most important part of the higher education process. No longer is it sufficient to recognize and summarize, words like “analyze” and “apply” are now part of the learning process, and part of the expectations for success. There’s a reason that Gram negative bacteria are the largest group of pathogens, and there’s a reason you will have to continue to watch your patient after the appropriate antibiotic has been administered. Understanding the “why” helps to ensure that they don’t have a complication which could have been avoided.

I’d like to think I am not so vain as to think that Microbiology is the end-all of health care, although I do have to prolong my feud with Professor Hodgson as to the relative essential nature of Micro versus A&P in the sophomore Nursing curriculum. The truth is, it’s all important, and not necessarily for the reasons that might be apparent from the start. Patient outcomes are demonstrably enhanced by understanding. Some of that understanding comes later, but it will always be facilitated by forming the connections earlier on.

So congratulations Winter 2011 graduates! You guys were great, and it was my pleasure to get to know you while you were here. I promise to not be too difficult of a patient when the situation presents itself, and if I am, I’ll try to not argue with you too much!


About ycpmicro

My name is David Singleton, and I am an Associate Professor of Microbiology at York College of Pennsylvania. My main course is BIO230, a course taken by allied-health students at YCP. Views on this site are my own.

Posted on December 22, 2011, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. I had the honor of having Dr. Singleton teach me Micro! As a non traditional student it was not as easy to grasp some of the lab concepts but he made it not only understandable but fun.
    Yes, yes, yes micro is invaluable as a nurse! Whether you are reading lab reports, in ICU’s getting requests from doctors to run tests for various parasites or fungi or dealing with the oh-so friendly Clostridium difficile, you will remember your micro teaching!!
    My educational experience at YCP has been extraordinary! Thank you Dr. S! I will treat you well if I am your nurse just please don’t get C. diff or MRSA! I hate having to gown up!!

    All my sincere thanks for bestowing on me an excellent foundation for my career,
    Melissa Salter

    • Oh, don’t be scared of MRSA! It’s probably normal microbial flora on lots of us! Just treat it with respect, and it will leave you alone.

      • I will have to add a side note… Having a daughter that graduated from YCP and is a microbiologist as well, I tend to look at all the micro / bio peeps as a little bit on the hippie side. I, as a nurse, try to eradicate bacteria while you guys try to grow and play with it! AND, Dr. S. if I remember correctly you really like yeast. Well, we in health care hate it and constantly are giving our patients Diflucan or Nystatin! Lol!

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