Medicine doesn’t exist in a vacuum. People’s health is shaped by factors including their access to nourishing food and safe places to exercise, as well as their past experiences with doctors. Healthcare professionals work best when they understand these factors and compassionately treat the whole patient.

As a pre-med student at St. Edward’s, you’ll develop a holistic understanding of your future patients. You’ll gain a rigorous science education in small classes — starting freshman year — and connect with research opportunities in your professors’ labs. Plus, you’ll work with a dedicated pre-medical coordinator who coaches you through the application process. But you’ll also become a well-rounded thinker who understands how to interpret scientific studies and separate fact from fiction. In your classes, you’ll learn about the cultural and historical factors that influence medicine and people’s relationship to it. Through service organizations, you’ll get out of your comfort zone, listen to other people’s perspectives, and develop empathy for people from different backgrounds.

All of these opportunities prepare students to enter the medical field – even during a global pandemic. “Our students have repeatedly stated how determined they are to get in the front lines of healthcare delivery,” says director of Career and Pre-Professional Programs Jason De La Rosa, who coordinates the medical school application process. “If they could fast-track their way through medical school right now, they would! They have accomplished the St. Edward’s mission to ‘understand themselves, clarify their personal values and recognize their responsibility to the world community,’ and they are ready to take the next step to become healthcare providers.”

Here’s what four future doctors say about the benefits of a St. Edward’s education.

You’ll learn how to identify accurate scientific information.

Angel Phan

“My liberal arts classes at St. Edward’s — religion, ethics, music, cultural foundations — have helped me understand different perspectives and cultures. That understanding is so important in establishing trust between patients and healthcare professionals. In these courses, we’ve had engaging discussions about how the coronavirus affects people in all sectors of society.

As a premedical student, I am grateful that I can understand a lot of the new research because of my science classes like Immunology, Epidemiology, and Cell Biology. My classes and research have also taught me how to determine whether information is accurate and reliable. With the recent pandemic, misinformation about the virus has become so abundant, especially online. My Evolution final actually focused on finding accurate information based on the research from the past few months. I recognize that, as a healthcare professional, I need to make sure I can steer patients away from inaccurate sources while providing efficient and high-quality care.”

Angel Phan ’20, Biology major, who will attend Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center Paul L. Foster School of Medicine at El Paso

You’ll put service first.

Charles Swail

“I earned an undergraduate degree in business and worked in events and then restaurants, where I’ve always loved the ‘service’ aspect of the industry. In 2013 I started a café on the lake in downtown Austin that sought to change the world, both by providing an uplifting space for customers, and by using local, sustainable products and reducing waste. But I still felt like something was missing, and I started looking into healthcare jobs where I could be of service in a more significant way. Something clicked when I was volunteering in a hospital emergency room as part of my EMT certification and saw the physicians help patients through crisis.

In my mid-30s, I went back to school, completing my pre-medical science requirements and going through the medical school application process at St. Edward’s. Even though I was on campus a short time, it was clear that the guiding principle in the pre-med program was service, particularly to those in greater need. The culture of the sciences and health professions program was to understand not just where you came from but where others come from, and how you can meet them there.”

Charles Swail, who completed his pre-med requirements at St. Edward’s and has been accepted to the University of the Incarnate Word School of Osteopathic Medicine

You’ll learn how to work toward a more just society.

Gabriella Becerra

“St. Edward’s has taught me the importance of connecting with my community and giving back. It also has helped me connect with underserved populations and become more aware of inequality and injustice.

In my Culminating Experience in Biology course, I focused my research on the impact of diet on one’s risk of depression. Although I was studying the science, it was impossible not to see how access to healthy foods – or a lack of access – could influence depression risk. Increasing access to good food is preventative care that decreases the need for later medical interventions.

In my Income Inequality and Tax Policy class, we volunteered to file taxes for low-income Austinites, for free. It was completely outside the scope of medicine, but it was eye-opening because I could see the disproportionate impact of some tax policies on the poor. It helped me think about how underserved and low-income groups don’t just have less access to healthcare, but are disadvantaged by the system in multiple ways.

I think these experiences will make me a better physician because I will aim to improve not only people’s health, but also their lives outside of medicine. I’m not yet a physician, so during the pandemic I have to contribute in other ways. That means social distancing, wearing a mask, shopping locally, supporting small businesses, and remembering others who are in need and faced with hard times.

The COVID-19 pandemic has definitely made me think harder about what exactly a doctor is. You hear stories about physicians sacrificing seeing their families in order to protect them, dealing with unprecedented struggle and loss, and going above and beyond to help people in need. All of these have contributed to my idea of the kind of physician I want to be.”

Gabriella Becerra ’21, Biology major, who was accepted to the Joint Admission Medical Program and will apply to medical school this summer

You’ll  understand health in context.

James Risinger

“The COVID pandemic has made the dangers of the medical profession all too real. At the same time, it has made the need for capable, compassionate doctors all the more apparent.

At St. Edward’s, courses like Epidemiology, Global Tourism and my Capstone class helped me realize how the world’s problems are interconnected. For example, a guest speaker who visited one of my classes helped me understand the historical roots of the complex relationship between race, poverty and health outcomes in the U.S. The legacy of slavery, Jim Crow and redlining prevented many African Americans from building wealth, which in turn influenced where they can live, what schools their children attend, what jobs they can attain, and therefore what access they have to health insurance and care.

These issues are obviously not unique to African Americans, but it is important to recognize that race and poverty (and therefore health) are inextricably linked in our country due to our history. I had been aware of some of these problems before, but in this class I started to really understand the connections. My classes and the collaborative culture at St. Edward’s instilled a sense of community, hope and duty that I believe is required to overcome not just COVID-19, but the other endemic problems we face, as well.”

James Risinger ’18, Biology major, who will enroll in the Texas A&M University College of Medicine this fall