By Meghan Kayan, ThriveAP Contributor and Future Physician Assistant

All college majors and pre-professional programs have a list of courses that students need to take prior to graduation or entrance into a program. However, if students plan well there is some leeway towards general education courses that can be chosen to fulfill the required number of credits to graduate. It’s up to you, as a student, to decide which classes to take. Most students like to take the classes that are an easy A, but taking courses that are interesting and relevant to your plan of study will be beneficial in the long run.

I was fortunate enough to be able to take three courses outside of the pre-physician assistant track that I think every pre-health professional should consider taking.

1. Fundamentals of the Health Care System

This course delves into the ideas of health systems, health insurance, and the ethics of health care. You might think, why do I care about this? Imagine treating a patient without any form of insurance. Now imagine trying to explain to them how to obtain insurance and the types of insurance that they should look for in order to prevent them from having to pay extremely high out of pocket costs for their care. Would you be able to do it? Before taking this course I didn’t know what a managed care organization was nor did I understand how managed care relates to insurance. After taking this class I have a slight grasp on how the Affordable Care Act is changing the health care system as we know it.

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2. An Anthropological View on Illness and Curing

Although most of us are familiar with the biomedical approach to treating patients and their illnesses, if I asked you how to identify coining or how Reiki is meant to treat a patient would you be able to tell me? A huge part of being culturally sensitive towards a patient is by being culturally aware of the different ways people treat illnesses. If you plan to work in a densely populated area there is a high chance you’ll be working with diverse populations. This course taught me that the way you are taught to treat is not the only way to treat a patient, and to be effective health care providers we need to be aware of that.

3. Global Health

Although most of us will keep our practice of medicine within the United States, I truly believe we all should have an understanding of how health varies from country to country. We live in a very privileged society where basic needs are generally met. In countries that aren’t as fortunate, the burden of disease is something that we may not even see anymore. Taking a course on international health is extremely humbling because we have so many supplies at our disposable while other countries have so little. By learning about these disparities we will never take for granted the methods and day to day resources that we use.

I was lucky enough to attend a university that offered these courses, however, if your school does not, talk with your advisor about participating in an independent study that will allow you to broaden your knowledge on these crucial topics prior to entering the health care field.


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