Class of 2022: Sophia Dort, Reflecting on her Study of ‘Medicine and Human Flourishing’

Sophia Dort

As a double major in Chemistry and Classical Languages, senior Sophia Dort realized that though she had taken many courses in both the sciences and the humanities, they rarely overlapped.

“When I saw an opportunity to take a class that was focused on medicine, but looking at it from a humanities point of view, I was pretty excited,” she said, explaining how she ended up taking a new course on Medicine and Human Flourishing this spring.

The course, cross-listed between Classical Studies, Global Health and Ethics, is part of the new Transformative Ideas program, which offers students interdisciplinary courses that teach the enduring questions and big ideas that change lives, link cultures and shape societies around the world. Medicine and Human Flourishing asks students to consider how medicine fosters human flourishing and well-being—individual and social—against the experience of injury, pain and suffering. Led by Classical Studies Associate Professor José Gonzalez, it brings together instructors from African & African American Studies, Biology, Family Medicine, Global Health, and the Trent Center for Bioethics, Humanities & History of Medicine.

“It was really interesting just seeing these concepts that could be dismissed as just…abstractions applied to very real-life situations,” Dort shared.

One of those real-life situations included exploring the public health and ethical questions that arose during the pandemic. Students discussed the ethical nuances of public health initiatives that impact people’s cultures and livelihoods. With her own personal experience living and studying through a pandemic in mind, Sophia appreciated the ways the course blended these philosophical and ethical questions with medical discussions, helping her to see the value of considering human behavior as part of how she thinks about medical solutions.

“One of the themes that I noticed with that course was that yes, this is a medicine themed class,” Dort said, “but so many of these questions really ended up being larger than just medicine. The question of dying wasn’t just about how is somebody dying medicinally but, ultimately, what does it mean to live a good life so that you can die without regrets?”

The question of dying may not be what most seniors are contemplating as they prepare to graduate, but Dort appreciated this one last opportunity to ponder universal truths before moving on to her chosen career.

Dort plans to attend medical school to study internal medicine with an interest in oncology or cardiology. She believes that more students in the pre-med track could benefit from this kind of addition to their coursework, and notes that while many students may not initially see the value in learning this humanistic perspective, the course helped her better understand the value of studying these principles and how to apply them to her own life.

She believes that the experience will help inform the kind of medical practitioner she becomes one day by reminding her to consider the humans involved—both herself and her patients.

“We talk a lot about how we see patients is more than just sort of biological organisms that need fixing but as whole people,” Dort shared. “Just as much as the patient has to be a whole person, so does the physician.”