Pre-med student organization highlights liberal arts majors

Stephanie Jumper, General Life&Arts Reporter

Teaching a group of children in foster care to dance in a Costa Rican arts school, Gabriella Gonzalez’s interest in emotional support blends with her creative abilities. After working internationally as a dance therapist’s assistant, she plans to move up in the health care industry, with one club in particular assisting her journey.      

Founded in 2008, the Liberal Arts Pre-Med Society primarily fosters community for liberal arts students intending to pursue medical school. Members like Gonzalez, Ritesh Soule and Shaan Jani joined the organization as students looking to explore non-STEM interests during their journeys as future physicians. 

Gonzalez, LAPMS treasurer and volunteer coordinator, said she began her medical involvement as a dance therapist working primarily with children in foster care. However, Gonzalez said when she transferred as a sophomore to UT’s College of Liberal Arts, she faced difficulties in finding resources to guide her into the medical field.

“I was behind to go to medical school, and I was scared,” psychology junior Gonzalez said. “As a non-STEM student categorized (under the College of Liberal Arts), … I didn’t know who to talk to.”

However, after joining LAPMS, Gonzalez said she could find guidance on starting a pre-med track. 

“It was a very messy schedule at the beginning,” Gonzalez said. “Then, in my second semester, I heard about LAPMS (from) a COLA friend (who told me) UT has liberal arts pre-med.”

Jani, LAPMS social and events coordinator, said he cemented his pre-med pathway this year. After dabbling in various pre-health clubs, Jani said he decided LAPMS best suited his needs.

“A lot of the organizations felt too large to the point where I didn’t feel like I could talk to anyone,” psychology sophomore Jani said.​​ “When I joined LAPMS, I found that I could talk to everyone and ask questions, and they would have time to respond.”

Although Jani only recently identified his passion for medicine, his career motivations extend far before young adulthood. Jani said his major and medical school plans stem from a desire to help others inspired by his own experiences with bullying.

Jani said his peers made fun of his weight as a child, and he also felt that he didn’t fit in his mostly white community as someone with Indian heritage. His feelings of self-doubt compelled him to research online about finding happiness, which translated into his future career path and current major in psychology. 

“I wanted to learn how to develop myself, and I would spend a lot of time on Google … learning how to make myself happier with who I am,” Jani said. “I figured if I’m spending so much time focusing on (happiness), maybe I can make it my career path and hopefully help other people that might be in a similar boat.”

Soule, LAPMS president, said his inspiration to pursue medicine came from meeting his friends’ physician parents as a child. He said while advisers often describe his major as unique for a pre-med student, he cherishes his degree’s emphasis on soft skills. 

“You see physicians (who don’t) understand their patient from a humanistic perspective,” history junior Soule said. “A liberal arts background helps with understanding the (patient’s) culture and getting a general feel of what their experience might be before seeking medical assistance.”

With a college as large as COLA, LAPMS provides opportunities for students to thrive in a tight-knit environment among peers with similarly unique academic careers, Jani said.

“(LAPMS) gives us a good way to find people from this huge pool that have related interests,” Jani said. “Hopefully we can build a friend group and go through this pretty difficult task together.”