As a student with multiple interests, I have looked at required courses with frustration. Health Science majors such as myself are required to take three years of prerequisite classes before they can take classes more pertinent to their major. My frustration stems from the reality that ever-changing professions push me to become more specialized, and I often feel as if I am lagging behind for having a wide academic background. However, as I develop a principle for identifying my career aspirations—which includes leading a content professional life and making an impact on society through field I choose—I increasingly realize that a wide background is valuable in reinforcing my primary professional interest in Healthcare Informatics.
As revealed by a study among IBM workers, there is a significant relationship between workers’ job satisfaction and either their aptitude or interest for their jobs. By ensuring contentment with my career, I mean that I wish to be content enough to work in the field I choose for an extended period of my life. Making a difference involves advancing the field in such a way that it would benefit society. A professional with a strong drive to make a difference in their field is more likely to be satisfied at work than another worker whose aptitudes are elsewhere. Whether I eventually receive recognition or not, I want to make my mark in my future career.
In addition to these main factors, other considerations went into my final decision to go choose a future career in Healthcare Informatics. The time it took for me to come to this decision took over two years, but when I finally made my decision, I felt that I would be able to achieve my two main goals.
My Highly Medical Upbringing
For my entire life thus far, my father has been an emergency room RN. My father led our family to stay health and fit, and would show and tell me many aspects of his job duties. Before any of my peers knew what Motrin even was, I could identify it as ibuprofen, and I knew not to take it on an empty stomach. I was around fourteen years old when my father opened his guidebook of electrocardiograms with bradycardia and tachycardia. Soon, I was able to recognize different arrhythmias of the heart, and I was barely in high school.
My mother, on the other hand, worked as a CNA during nursing school. After I was born, however, she decided to stop taking care of others for a living in order to take care of my older sister and I. Her decision is one I will always appreciate and respect—whenever I was sick, my mother went beyond what any babysitter would have done for me otherwise. With both my father and mother to raise me, there was always an emphasis on health and caring in my upbringing.
A Wide Variety of Interests
I have always been interested in the sciences, especially Biology and Chemistry. And even more than the lectures, I enjoyed the laboratory classes. I performed experiments on the taxis vs. kinesis idea with pillbugs and dissected a fetal pig to learn about anatomy. In chemistry, I performed intricate titrations of acids with bases and physically found the triple point of carbon dioxide.
What intrigued me most was the combination of Biology and Chemistry—two sciences which largely determine who we are as humans beings. From the buffer which adjusts the acidity or basicity of our blood to the hormones our glands secrete, there is an inherently intimate connection between Biology and Chemistry in the human body. This combination tied in very well with Healthcare, which was sparked by my parents’ professions, and then reinforced by my undergraduate coursework.
Outside the realm of science, I also have a passion for effective and stylistic communication through written language. According to David Russell in Writing in the Academic Disciplines, society today has done away with writing as a skill specific to each discipline and instead teaches writing as a single, generalizable skill in college equivalents of ‘Writing 101.’ However, as today’s scholars become more specialized in their fields, there is often a disparity between how these scholars must communicate with the general public and other authorities in their fields. All of my main interests, however, never seemed to come together into one clear path, and I faced difficulty deciding upon a major—until I decided to take a course in one final discipline I forgot about.
My Forgotten Interest
My family’s first PC sparked my interest in computers. I started off playing with Microsoft Paint and over the years, I explored different operating systems and software. Eventually, I became my family’s go-to person, their “Geek Squad” representative. Throughout high school, I worked with a wide variety of software, including computer aided drafting, database, and advanced photo-editing software. I never considered taking computer science while I was in high school because I found that I had sufficient knowledge to function as a twenty-first century student and thus decided to leave the software development to the developers.
When I began exploring different disciplines in college, I happened to explore Computer Science further to see how it might guide me along a career path. My first Java programming class helped me realize how computers can make our lives more efficient. Human intelligence is hard to match, but the instantaneous nature of computer calculations are sometimes even more useful than extra staff in making an industry more efficient. This Light Bulb Moment was paramount to my realization that Computer Science has the potential to make a difference in any field.
Connections Across Multiple Disciplines
I grew up in the day when manila folders stacked on high shelves were used to store patient records. Today, those folders still exist, but healthcare practices are being pushes to eliminate the physical files and replace them with electronic files to make patient records more accessible, more secure, and to give healthcare providers a tool for assistance with record accuracy. My parents spent years working with physical patient charts, only to recently be introduced to computerized charting systems. They often complain to me about their difficulties with the user-friendliness of the software. And in the end, I have decided that I want to be part of that trend so that one day, I may assist in the development of software which caters to both sides: the generation which is still becoming used to computers, and the generation which has grown up with computers.
The Health Science major will allow me to become successful in my future career in Healthcare Informatics. By the time I graduate, I will have taken courses in healthcare ethics and issues, medical terminology, healthcare writing, and informatics. I will have completed many of the courses that pre-health students are required to take, which will allow me to communicate with doctors and nurses, but I will also have a background in computer science which I will use to assist in the advancement of the field. My background in writing will allow me to understand the differences between communicating among software developers and communicating with healthcare professionals. By being able to distinguish between communicating within each field, I will be able to develop a method of communication between the fields, allowing for a level of higher interdisciplinary collaboration.
As Danny Crichton of the Stanford Daily writes,
The danger of specialization, then, is going too far. There is a necessary opportunity cost made when choosing classes or reading a book. The more specialized one becomes in an area, the less time there is to develop connections with other disciplines. Without those other connections, however, it is difficult to channel ideas to others with slightly different specialties. Overlap is necessary for even basic communication– just place a theoretical math major and an art history major into the same room and have them talk about their work. Does one understand the other clearly? Probably not.
Crichton then makes the following point:
More than any other area, medicine has radiated out to connect with the sciences, social sciences and engineering disciplines. Connecting the basic sciences with medicine was given the particularly apt term “translational medicine,” and the concept now forms a foundation of many medical schools.
Crichton makes valid points, with which I can directly relate. No industry is static; new issues arise in every field over the course of time professional’s career—issues which may require knowledge outside a person’s main field. A professional who desires to stay in their field without burning out must be able to maintain a desire to succeed in a dynamic environment with a wide scope of ideas. If I have a wide enough background, I realize that it is okay to be frustrated as an undergraduate student with a wide background because each of the components of my background will contribute useful skills toward my future career. I may not need to be specialized just yet, because I can achieve specialization during my future graduate studies. Thus, for now, I have found contentment.