Biology Alumnus John Finneran '08 applied to UCSD School of Medicine because he wanted to attend one of the leading institutions for medical research in the US. The third year medical student said he credits his liberal arts education from USD with helping him build a successful application.
"Being a doctor involves much more than knowledge of basic science," Finneran said." One needs the ability to think critically about problems and also the ability to communicate well with other physicians and patients. Liberal arts education contributes to all of these."
He stressed that admission to medical school does not require an extensive background in medical research, or even a degree in the sciences. His advice to pre-health undergraduates: Don't feel like you have to sacrifice your college experience just to get into medical school!
"College will be the only time in the life of a physician where he or she can explore history, music, literature, art or any other field of interest with unlimited time, and that is an opportunity that should not be wasted," Finneran said.
"The best advice I can give undergrads considering medical school is that they should follow their own interests during their time in college and not think they need to sacrifice their undergraduate experience to get into medical school."
Carol Moffett, former Director of Pre-Health Advising said that future health professionals can benefit greatly from the core curriculum offered at USD.
"A liberal arts education allows pre-health students to prepare for a career in a broad format that includes the discovery of one's values and talents," Moffett said. "This is especially important in the world of healthcare where knowledge beyond that of the basic sciences can be applied to the human side of medicine."
As an undergraduate, Finneran took advantage of USD's broad Core Curriculum. Some of his favorite classes were outside of his major, including Problem of God, Greek and Roman Literature, and Logic.
Of course, Finneran also took required pre-medical science classes as well as other courses in the sciences. Among his favorite science courses were Organic Chemistry, Vertebrate Physiology, Paleopathology and Genetics. He said he was most inspired by Professor Terry Bird of the USD Department of Biology.
"I first worked with Dr. Bird as a TA for a lower division biology lab and subsequently took several courses with him and worked in his lab for a semester," Finneran said.
Now in his third year at UCSD School of Medicine, Finneran and his classmates are rotating through the major medical specialties, spending two to three months exploring each one. He said he hopes to become an orthopedic surgeon with a focus in hand surgery.
"My research has focused on surgical techniques in hand surgery using cadaver models as well as skeletal muscle mechanotransduction, the ability of muscle cells to detect and respond physiologically to changes in their mechanical environment," Finneran said.
Finneran was also involved in research at UCSD during his undergraduate years. That work was conducted under the guidance of School of Medicine Professor Steven Dowdy and focused on the cellular and molecular basis of tumor invasion and metastasis.
Click here to see a video interview with John Finneran.
- Anne Malinoski '11