Classes for future doctors

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10+ Year Member
Jan 17, 2011
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We here on SDN so often discuss which classes to take for improving our MCAT scores, fulfilling admissions requirements, and the like. Yet, we seldom discuss which courses might help us become better doctors, leaders, humanitarians, and medical innovators. The aim of this thread is to discuss ideas that might best prepare current students for their future roles. I'll start with a few of my ideas: (obviously coursework options will vary by institution, but please try to choose courses that other universities might offer)

Dying, Death, and Afterlife
A study of the religious, ethical, spiritual, psychological, and socio-cultural dimensions of dying, death, and afterlife. Reading and discussion of issues surrounding dying (dying as one's last career, patient-centered approaches, spirit/body relationships); death (definitions, religious meanings, ritual practices); and afterlife (religious conceptions, relation to the human quest for meaning).

Medical Anthropology
Surveys the relationships among disease, curing, culture, and environment. Topics include problems of adapting modern medicines to diverse cultures; explication of the social and cultural correlates of physical and mental health and disease; nutritional implications of culture change; anthropology contributions to health-policy decisions and makers in non-Western countries.

Laws, Ethics, and Regulations in Health Services
Study of specific areas of law, ethics, and regulations in health care. Examination of legal and ethical issues of licensing, health insurance, managed care, funding mechanisms, medical negligence and malpractice, informed consent, health care records, and patient and family rights.

Biomedical Ethics
An examination of moral issues arising in medical practice and biomedical research. Among the topics discussed are the responsibilities of health care professionals, the allocation of scarce medical resources, genetic engineering, and the harvesting of fetal tissue.

Counseling Psychology
Theory of individual and family counseling and laboratory practice in individual counseling.

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Sep 18, 2010
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At my school, we have a "Psychology of Death and Dying" class, taught by an excellent professor. I was the only premed in the class, but I found it to be really interesting (and I am NOT a psychology person). The professor (who also works in thanatology/hospice/grief counseling), seemed to have a negative view of doctors, since he feels they fear those who are dying and don't accept death. I definitely felt like taking this class will help me become a better doctor, since I understand more about death and people who are dying, what they're going through, etc. I would recommend a similar class to anyone interested in being a doctor--it gives you some perspective. He also talked about loss in general and the grieving process, how medications (like anti depressants) are over-prescribed because doctors don't recognize symptoms of the natural grieving process, and how doctors are only interested in preserving life so they give up on patients when they are dying (or try to hand them off to another doctor), instead of being supportive.