Brandon Golden ’14 Reflects on the History Major and Medical School

Brandon Golden recently shared a bit about how his experience as a history major at the University of Scranton prepared him for medical school:

History Degree to MD

After attending a prestigious medical school and securing a position at a competitive residency in emergency medicine, I am confident that my history degree was an asset. Back when I was deciding my major, I struggled to choose between the typical “pre-med major” or a degree in history, which I was passionate about but not sure it would help me get to medical school. Looking back on all of the chemical pathways, pharmacology, and pathology I have learned over the years, I never regretted using my undergraduate degree to explore my interest in history.

I would encourage anyone considering pursuing a medical education to choose a history or other humanities degree while at the University of Scranton. I believe you will stand out on the interview trail for both medical school and residency. This cannot be overstated in a field where everyone has great grades and test scores. A humanities major will help you stand out as a more well-rounded individual in a sea of “pre-med” applications. In addition, I think that the critical thinking, writing, and communication skills I developed with a history degree have helped me be a better medical student and physician. Often times I have found there is an “art” to medicine where the right answer isn’t always the one memorized in a book. There are multiple ways of being right, as long as you can back it up with supporting information. This is similar to the thinking of history majors, who can have multiple viewpoints on the same topic that can all be valid with the appropriate supporting evidence.

History and humanities majors will excel with the recent changes to medical school board exams, known as the dreaded USMLE. The shift of evaluation will be away from rote memorization (USMLE Step 1), the lowest form of learning, to more clinical and critical thinking skills that later USMLE exams (Step 2 CK) will test. Humanities majors are primed to succeed in this type of environment, in my opinion. The results of the first two years of medical school, which is heavy on memorization, will have very little impact on what type of residency you will be competitive for. Medical schools are looking to produce more and more holistic and humanistic physicians than those of the past. I would encourage you to pursue whatever major you would like, and know that it will not detract from your competitiveness for medical school. In fact, at many schools it will be seen as an asset. Learn to love life-long learning while in undergrad, and carry this with you to medical school. It will not matter if you are learning about Hamilton or histology, it will be a quest to gain more knowledge. I am confident that if you are able to perform well in the core medical school requirement classes at the University of Scranton, that will be the foundation you will need to succeed in medical school. All the other “upper level classes” in the sciences are not necessary to do well in medical school. Medical schools will teach you what you need to know without the extra frills. Take this opportunity in your life right now to study something in the humanities that you will never get exposure to again. I promise you will not regret it.


Enjoy the adventure,

Brandon Golden, M.D.

University of Rochester School of Medicine & Dentistry Class of 2020

University of Scranton Class of 2014

This entry was posted in Uncategorized, Why History? and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *