Rebecca Ellis '15

rebecca ellis

Students in philosophy become disciplined, logical, and judicious thinkers. I quickly learned this in Phil 8 with Professor Simmons during my first year of college. From the get-go, she demanded close reading, critical thinking, and cogent argumentation—all of which seemed like personally, academically, and professionally valuable skills. And although the goal of mastering these skills was what drew me in to the department, it’s not what kept me there. What kept me were the ideas—the exciting and inviting philosophical problems that were so fun to explore. How can we distinguish between the mind and the body? Where do our moral obligations come from? Is there an external world? Is there such a thing as a universal law? Ultimately, the coursework and instruction in the philosophy department equipped me with careful, systematic reasoning skills and showed me that no question was too big to tackle.

During my sophomore year of college I was accepted to the Humanities and Medicine Program (what has since become the FlexMed Program) at the Icahn School of Medicine in New York. I decided to attend medical school, because I wanted a career in which I could help people live and die well. I was (and am) inspired by medicine’s ability to integrate a person’s biology and values in a way that promotes their life’s meaning. Moreover, I knew that the endless complexity and constant discovery inherent in medicine would grant me an incredible amount of learning and personal growth, and I found that immensely appealing.

Studying philosophy has prepared me tremendously for medical school. It has given me the tools to approach problems methodically and communicate effectively, enhancing my medical education and practice as a physician-in-training. Looking at my classmates and the incredible diversity of their careers, I’m certain that studying philosophy prepares students for all kinds of professional endeavors. Emerson Hall was a place for sharing ideas and thinking deeply, and I can’t think of a better way to have spent my four years at Harvard.