Seeing Disease Beyond the Biological

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by Christina (Ha Eun) Cho 15C

When I first entered college, I was rather torn— as a student aspiring to be a physician, I thought that I had to choose between my interests in the natural sciences and the social sciences and humanities. Aside from having to take an English course, to fulfill my medical schools’ pre-requisites, and a few HAP (humanities, arts, performance) courses, to fulfill Emory’s, there was no pressing reason for me to delve deeper into the latter of these subjects, no pressing reason than of course my own personal interests.

For the past year I have been working with Dr. Mary Frederickson from the ILA (Institute of Liberal Arts) department on a project called the “Genetic Imaginary: Sickle Cell Disease in Global Perspective.” Within this project, I have focused on reproductive issues concerning individuals with sickle cell disease (SCD) and sickle cell trait (SCT). The project itself is something of a multi-disciplinary medical humanities study— looking at issues concerning the basic human rights on medical treatment, scientific research, access to healthcare, taking into perspective factors such as race that have so very much shaped the history and legacy of sickle cell disease.

Throughout the course of my college career, particularly now as a pre-med student finishing the core of sciences classes and preparing for MCATs, I have come to so deeply appreciate the extent to which I have been able to explore the humanities. While the natural sciences unwrap the complexities of the world around me, beginning from the most microscopic of levels, the humanities teach me about the world in perhaps the most basic and profoundly human ways. In the natural sciences, I learn about sickle cell disease as a pathological state caused by the abnormal form of hemoglobin in red blood cells. In the humanities, I learn about how sickle cell disease affects an individual’s confidence to form relationships, how it raises ethical questions concerning genetics and reproduction, how, in a short, a disease can go so far beyond the biological.

During my time at the Fox Center, I have been thoroughly encouraged by the members of the community. The genuine passion, which they have shown to their academic pursuits, and the genuine interest, which they have shown for their peers, inspire me to do the same. As I reflect on this semester, I have to say though, that, while somewhat intimidating, my favorite part of this experience was having the privilege to present my project to these scholars. Their thoughtful, challenging questions were so very stimulating and pushed to pursue my research with a higher level of intellectual curiosity and engagement. For that, I just want to say that I am extremely grateful to the FCHI and for the opportunity to be a part of its community.

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