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!