With medicine becoming more complex and specialized, Ada Breitenbucher knew she would need a deep background in science to achieve her goals. But the fourth-year biology major also recognized early on that it’s not all about analytical skills and clinical know-how.
“I think the expectation now is that physicians needs to be versatile and adaptable,” says Breitenbucher. “Even in specialized fields, you need to have a range of skills, as well as interpersonal skills, empathy and a broad base of knowledge.”
To that end, she opted to minor in classical and near eastern studies in archaeology. She was inspired by a trip to Europe that sparked an interest in history and culture.
“In Italy, I was surrounded by history and I loved it,” says Breitenbucher. “You have the subway station and then next to it you have this ancient monument that’s been there for centuries. I love learning about history and culture, so I figured why not study it in school.”
While it might seem like a departure from her career goals, Breitenbucher sees her studies in the humanities as integral to her professional pursuits. In particular, she believes her knowledge and background in culture make her more relatable for patients.
“The science is important and I like doing science, but in humanities you think about more abstract questions around where we come from, who are we today and where we are headed,” she says. “I think those questions and that way of thinking is makes it easier to connect with people.”
Breitenbucher sees being able to relate to patients as a critical skill for a physician.
“If a doctor isn’t picking up on social cues and isn’t on the same wave length as a patient, that can actually be really harmful,” says Breitenbucher. “Patients may be less likely to share or speak up about something when they don’t feel a connection with their doctor. I want to be sure my future patients can relate to me around our shared experience of being human.”
– Lance Janssen