A Comparative Advantage: Video Transcript

Sarah Stewart de Ramirez (BA Chemistry, Miami, 1999) [emergency medicine physician at Johns Hopkins Medicine and assistant director of the hospital's Global Emergency Services division]: My interest in chemistry came from the fact that I was interested in being a doctor, and I had worked internationally in Haiti since the age of 13. And so, I knew when I came to college that I wanted to be able to acquire a skill set that could work throughout the world and could work globally that wasn't so context specific.

When I was at Miami of Ohio, I took first year several courses, and as I took my chemistry courses, a couple of really great mentors came about, and I had the chance to develop some research relationships, and in that context, I think made chemistry a good home for me. It really, I think, gave me the foundation with which to approach some of these harder problems, like thinking about poverty and access to health care ultimately in developing countries.

In medicine, one of the most important aspects as a physician is to be able to relate to your patients, and so relating to your patients isn't about knowing the medicine well. They expect that you will know the medicine well when you are treating them. The thing that a liberal arts education allows you is that ability to understand other people's training and how other people approach problems and think through problems, and being ill is a common problem that people have, but everybody thinks about illness and how they should be treated and the curative methods that we use through their own lens and their own experiences of the world. And so I think having a liberal arts education gives you a broader vista from which to be able to relate to your patients, which is ultimately the thing that will allow you, I think, to advocate for them in health care.

I think your major determines perhaps how you approach your trajectory and approach problems in life. But I don't think that it determines necessarily your trajectory, so I think when you're thinking about a major that you choose, you're choosing the framework with which you would like to be able to approach larger problems and your career in life, and so I think that that's why people end up in majors that suit their personalities because they're choosing that lens. In terms of thinking about medicine or chemistry specifically, I would say to remember that the things that will enrich your career long-term are going to be your ability to use the tools that you've acquired, either in chemistry or medicine, to be able to attack some of those harder-to-solve problems that may be just adjacent to the field in which you were trained.

Remember that the diversity of offerings at Miami gives you a comparative advantage when compared to students who don't go to a liberal arts school, because some of the largest problems in our society and facing our world are only going to be able to be addressed through that multidisciplinary approach. So the more that you're able to be in an environment and seek out mentors, research opportunities, and partnerships with people outside of your discipline, the more you will be equipped long-term to be able to take on some of the world’s toughest problems, and so that's why I think Miami was a great place for me.

[April 2017]