Benjamin Gray

photo of Benjamin Gray

  • BA in Philosophy (2010)
  • MD from University of Toledo College of Medicine
  • currently doing postgraduate training and residency in radiology (Indiana University)
  • working towards an MA in Philosophy

My Profession

"After graduating from Miami with a philosophy degree in 2010, I went back home to Toledo, Ohio to attend medical school. At the end of my third year, I applied for residency. My wife went to medical school in Toledo as well, and we were lucky enough to both end up together for residency at Indiana University: myself in radiology, and my wife in pediatrics.

"I recently have been in contact with the chair and professor of philosophy, Emily Zakin, because I decided to pursue an MA in philosophy with the hope that I may have the opporunity to teach in some of the non-clinical aspects of medicine. Most medical schools have a non-clinical curriculum that includes a number of different subjects, inlcuding economics, law, politics, ethics, and so on. Though not aboslutely necessary, I hope that the master's degree will augment my undergraduate education and support my aspiration to teach and engage in scholarly activities within these disciplines.

"My mentor at Indiana University, who also has a background in philosophy, has helped guide many of my career aspirations. There are a lot of issues within the field of medicine and radiology that I think are very important and need to be addressed. I believe that the humanistic or philosophical voice is largely missing from medicine, where most people obviously have a fairly focused scientific background. However, it's critical to have an alternative perspective for the challenges facing medicine, and I hope to not only remain in radiology as a clinician, but also teach and write in some related philosophical fields.

"Medicine is becoming more and more dominated by the language and schematics of business. By and large, hospitals are run not by physicians but by CEOs — people with MBAs and very strong financial and economic backgrounds. This has significantly changed the field of medicine, what it means to be a physician and a patient, and the meaning of the physician-patient relationship. Those are some of the things I'm interested in discussing."

Best Miami Experiences

"My experience as a Miami student was perhaps a bit different than some. As an entering freshman, my roommate, who was a German and political science double major, convinced me to apply for housing in the international dormitory on Western campus. Besides the unique experiences and perspectives this provided, the dorm was where I met many of my closest friends and was introduced to books and ideas that would shape my interests and career plans. A lot of my friends, being philosophy and political science majors, had the same interests as me. My best memories are mostly about going to class with my friends and having debates afterwards at Kofenya or Steinkeller.

"When I first came to Miami, I was on the fence about whether I wanted to pursue medicine or engineering. I decided to attempt to pursue medicine, but initially had a difficult time figuring out what to major in. Obviously, most pre-medical students major in one of the sciences or related fields, but I wanted to have a major that provided a more well-rounded education.

"As a Miami freshman I took a German literature class, and the professor just happened to teach quite a bit of philosophy — that opened the door for me. Ultimately, I wandered over to Hall Auditorium one day, got interested in philosophy, and signed up soon after."

Miami and the Liberal Arts

"I think philosophy is an excellent stepping stone for just about any graduate degree. Whether you want to do something in business, law, or medicine, it's going to provide a great background for all of those fields. Of course, the major has some practical applications — it gives you, for example, the ability to think logically and reason through complex problems and arguments. These are certainly skills that are absolutely mandatory within medicine.

"When I was applying to medical school, I sensed from my interviewers that they believed my philosophy background meant I somehow had the privileged ability to answer challenging ethical questions. But, far more important than answering difficult moral and ethical questions, I think philosophy helps teach you to consider whether you are asking the right questions.

"For example, with medicine becoming dominated by the principles of business, a lot of medical professionals have taken it upon themselves to get an MBA. Those who pursue such an education largely seem to argue that, in order to manage these emerging challenges, physicians themselves must become familiar with the business principles that underlie them. To me, however, this approach might ultimately prove problematic in that you risk merely perpetuating the underlying assumptions and framework giving rise to the problems you are trying to fix. You need someone who says, 'Wait a second, we need to approach medicine from a different direction.' I think that's where philosophy helps. It demands that you question the underlying presuppositions and potentailly redirect your thoughts and perspectives.

"Similarly, early on in medical school, you learn some very basic ethics. The key ideas are that physician-patient relationships are fiduciary and cannot be defined by business or the typical customer-service provider relationship. Medicine is supposed to be something different, almost sacred. However, due to a number of reasons, it seems increasingly difficult to define the physician-patient relationship as sacred today. Though certainly helpful to some degree, I don't think obtaining an MBA or becoming expert in finance or economics is going to significantly change the current state of medicine. Rather, we need people with the ability and courage to challenge the fundamental values and beliefs, both explicit and implicit, that are shaping the field of medicine.

"When you approach a challenge, it can be difficult to resolve if you're solely focused on one perspective or have an educational background that is overly one-dimnesional. If you're only within the perspective of science, for example, you risk being dismissive or insufficently informed of other crticical disciplines; similarly, if you're only scholastic background is in the humanities, you risk not having the ability to appreciate the complexities and nuances of problems within business or science. It's important to make sure that you have an education that is as well-rounded as you can."

Advice to Students

"I know it's hard to to explicity forecast your future when you're still an early undergraduate student, but it's imperative that you seek out other potential avenues for a career that you may not at first consider — especially if you're a humanities major. For example, there are many occupations within the medical field that most students likely have no idea exist. Take any sort of experience you can get — whether it's shadowing or interning — try to get out there and see what some occupations are like.

"People used to ask me all the time, 'What are you going to do with a philosophy degree?' If you're proactive and go out and experience the numerous and diverse fields available to graduates, the sooner you can figure out what you might be interested in and the more you can tailor your major towards your career goals — not only in terms of your education, but also your extracurricular activities.

"Medical school requirements vary, but there are a minimum number of classes you have to take: your basic biology, physics, chemistry, and stuff like that. But what's nice about the philosophy degree is that it's not exceeedingly demanding in terms of required classes. You can easily accommodate the requirements for whatever graduate pogram or particular job you might have in mind.

"Just keep an open mind about all the different fields that you could potentially go into, and do the best you can to seek out opportunities that might help you make a decision. If you're thinking of going into medicine, you should certainly at least consider philosophy, history, or any of the other humanities. It's critical that we have people in medicine with an educational background that encourages one to sincerely question the presuppositions of the field and prevailing notions that might be jeopardizing its future. I am sure this demand in medicine is also equally present in education, law, business, and many other professions."

[March 2018]