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A New Degree Option for Pre-Health Professions Undergraduates

Fall 2011

A New Degree Option for Pre-Health Professions Undergraduates

Stephen E. Fritz, Ph.D.* and Steven L. Berk, M.D.**

Cooperation and collaboration are too often rare commodities in a world charged with extreme partisanship and winner-takes-all attitudes. Texas Tech University (TTU) has raised the bar and set a new standard in creating a joint venture to benefit top student scholars of our university. The result? We now have a fine example of mutually beneficial cooperation between the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center (TTUHSC) and the Honors College.

Beginning fall 2011, the Honors College launched the Health and Humanities track of the Bachelor of Arts in Honors Arts and Letters. Its purpose is to serve the more than 40 percent of incoming Honors College students who indicate they wish to be preprofessional health sciences majors. With this program – one of a select few in the nation – the Honors College and the TTUHSC have crafted a significant value-added component to premedical/health sciences preparation at the university.

At a recent meeting of the TTU System Board of Regents, Chancellor Kent Hance expressed his enthusiasm for the program: “This is a great example of our institutions working together to create new and exciting opportunities for our students. This program will allow us to leverage the proximity of our campuses, giving us a competitive advantage when recruiting top undergraduate students. It also will allow the TTUHSC to recruit the best and brightest Honors College students.”

We feel that TTU preprofessional health students have greater competitive advantage, and students will see an immediate benefit from the new program. TTUHSC President Tedd Mitchell has vigorously supported the new degree program and has invited Honors College students to utilize TTUHSC labs, clinics, and facilities. Faculty and staff at both TTU and TTUHSC are working to provide new opportunities for some of Texas Tech’s most talented undergraduates.

Briefly, the special union between the TTUHSC and the Honors College offers the following:

The main purpose of the Health and Humanities track is the preparation of future physicians and health-care providers. Historically, preprofessional students have self-selected curricular components along the lines of the demanding requirements of the MCAT. Such pre-determination requires solid follow-through and ultimately, demonstrated understanding of the physical sciences, biological sciences, and verbal reasoning. Texas Tech faculty members have a high regard for the demonstration of this foundational learning/preparation for postgraduate study areas such as medicine. However, medical schools are now increasingly looking for candidates with humanities backgrounds, emphasizing areas such as ethics, philosophy, and literature. New programs like the Health and Humanities track of the Bachelor of Arts in Honors Arts and Letters degree will unquestionably meet these expectations. Indeed, in a recent TTU news release, one of us (Steven Berk) offered the following assertion publicly: “The Honors College Health Track is designed to give each student the best possible background and educational experiences prior to enrolling in medical school. While basic science is still a backbone of premed preparation, other courses such as ethics, history of medicine, and psychology and anthropology also are extremely valuable in preparing a student to be a well-rounded and compassionate physician. Students in the Honors Health Track will be very well-prepared for the rigorous and demanding curriculum of medical school.”

Current and prospective students, faculty members, staff, and friends of TTU who are interested in learning more regarding the new program should contact the Honors College at (806)742-1828, or visit the website at www.honr.ttu.edu.

About the Authors

*Stephen E. Fritz, Ph.D. serves as interim dean of the TTU Honors College.

**Steven L. Berk, M.D. serves as executive vice president, provost and dean of the TTUHSC School of Medicine.

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