The Doctors Are In: Anatomy of NWU’s future physicians

All in this together

What role do the liberal arts play in the success of Nebraska Wesleyan’s physicians? Does a liberal arts education help them get into medical school?

“I used to think it did,” Dappen said. “[Now] I’m not so sure.”

Glenn Dappen with Class of Future DoctorsPhysicians point to a big difference between college and medical school. “The amount of information you intake as an undergrad is like sucking on a garden hose,” Duval said. “In medical school, it’s more like a fire hose.”

While the breadth of a Nebraska Wesleyan education—the experiences in art, literature and social sciences—may not play a direct role in biology majors’ performance on the MCAT, it absolutely impacts their performance as physicians.

“It definitely helps on the other side after they get out [of medical school] in dealing with patients,” Dappen said. “That’s when the liberal arts really are important.”

Duval credited NWU for helping him become versatile. “At Wesleyan I was a student, football player, fraternity member, had multiple jobs and was involved in many organizations and activities,” he said. “In the [Emergency Department] I have to be a doctor, counselor, teacher, parent and social worker all in the same shift. So I think NWU… [helped] me become flexible enough to handle all the tasks I have to perform on a daily basis.”

For Gengenbach, there is a direct connection between pursuing a holistic education for herself and holistic health for her future patients. “It’s about exposure. Our minds are open to other possibilities,” she said. “I’ve learned how to see the way things interrelate.” A patient’s lifestyle and circumstances—her unique story—absolutely play a role in her health. And Gengenbach’s education will help her listen to those stories and be sensitive to the interconnections beneath the surface.

“I’m a big fan of the liberal arts concept,” Roberts said. “Wesleyan helped me become a better student even years after school is done.”

He credited the Biology Department for “teaching hard work and intellectual honesty.” He said, “Physicians are busy people. And most don’t stop to honor our teachers. We should. We owe them a lot.”

Dappen’s liberal arts lesson to physicians is this: “We’re all in this humanity together,” he said. “We’re all citizens of this earth.

“And I think Wesleyan has done a very good job of producing a well-rounded individual.” It’s an approach that has proven healthy for the roughly 7,000 patients touched by it every day.