As I officially complete the fall semester of my Senior Year at Concordia College with the submission of this final blog post, I cannot help but to reflect on all that I have learned and experienced throughout these incredible and challenging past 3 1/2 years. When I originally made my decision to attend Concordia College, it had stemmed from my desire to not only grow and succeed as a student throughout my undergraduate education, but also as a citizen and human being with broadened perspectives and a dedication to involvement within the world. I was confident that Concordia College would challenge me to think deeper, create incredible connections, and incorporate education and perspectives into every aspect of my life. And it has done exactly that.
Neurochemistry at Concordia College is a course that is structured unlike any other class I have taken. The curriculum of our neurochemistry class was structured in a way that acknowledges neurochemistry to be a very new and developing science, one that heavily researched and holds great potential for future discovery. There is so much information in neurochemistry that has yet to be discovered and many questions yet to be answered. My neurochemistry peers and I have spent the past few months working together to hypothesize answers to those impossible questions and uncover some of the most innovative and recent discoveries in neurochemistry today.
Neurochemistry, more than anything, has succeeded in providing me with a well-rounded educational experience both in the classroom and in the community. Although I was not expecting this class to have a crucial impact on my life, it is one of the classes that I believe has BEST prepared me for life as a future physician. Every day throughout the past semester I have been BREWing (becoming responsibly engaged in the world) through my neurochemistry course: learning, teaching, growing, and connecting.
Read below to find out HOW I BREWed through the five goals of liberal learning.
1. Instill a love for learning
I have always had a passion for learning, whether that was learning how to type 150 words per minute or learning how to dissect and identify anatomical structures. Although I did not develop my love for learning through my education at Concordia College, my passion for learning has grown and spread to various topics beyond science, such as religion and political science, that I had never before taken interest in. The incredible experiences I have had while at Concordia College include my participation in the pre-medical co-operative education, where I scheduled extra shadowing hours than was required because of my interest in medicine and desire to always learn more. From the broad scope of education I have received through my liberal arts education, I have been encouraged to think broadly in order to establish connections between various fields of curriculum. This was a very common occurrence throughout my neurochemistry course, as we digested complex neurochemistry pathways within the brain and discussed ethical dilemmas surrounding the research topic of the week. I thoroughly enjoyed incorporating my experiences and perspectives into our weekly neurochemistry research topics. My neurochemistry class has reinforced my love for learning and discovery, which will stick with me throughout my future as a physician.
2. Develop foundational skills and transferable intellectual capacities
To be able to effectively communicate complex information in your expertise to those with less knowledge in your area of study is a crucial skill for a physician and any medical professional. It is very difficult to take something as complex as neurochemistry and try to communicate the information to others in relatable and interpretive forms. However, I believe I have gained this skill through writing blogs about neurochemistry topics throughout this past semester. I have spent hours each week devising the best ways to communicate neurochemistry pathways or topics, many of which are not currently fully understood, in relatable terms to those in other disciplines.
One of the most incredible experiences I have had yet at Concordia College included the community action project that I was apart of through my neurochemistry course. I worked alongside other brilliant minds in neurochemistry and social work to create an event that aimed to end the stigma behind mental illness by educating the community on mental illness neurobiology. Through our critical analysis of various perspectives surrounding mental illness, we discovered that many people are afraid and stigmatize concepts or ideas that they are not familiar with, including mental illness. So in order to end the stigma, we wanted to promote public education regarding the neurological origins of mental illness. In this presentation, we designed symbols, utilized colors and sizes, and relatable objects in order to best explain these complex neurological pathways that result in mental illness to the community. It was humbling to have been a part of this presentation, and I look forward to continuing to sharpen such communication skills as a future physician.
3. Develop an understanding of disciplinary, interdisciplinary and intercultural perspectives and their connections
I believe this goal was also achieved throughout the planning stages of our community action project. It was an incredible experience working in collaboration with social work students to identify an issue and find the most effective way to solve or promote awareness surrounding that issue. Mental illness is a topic that all of our group members were personally passionate about, which made our project more meaningful. I truly believe our event was successful because our group consisted of students from various disciplines working together and bringing different perspectives and knowledge to the table throughout the planning stages. The neuroscience students put together a presentation on the neurobiology of the four most common mental illnesses in the U.S., while the social work students created a panel of personal speakers they knew would most effectively influence the audience.
We also were grateful to have been sponsored by various businesses within the Fargo-Moorhead community that were, themselves, passionate about mental illness awareness. It was inspiring to have conversations with business managers and healthcare workers regarding mental illness and the goal of our project. We were shocked at how much support and encouragement we received from the community in response to our event and our goal to end the stigma behind mental illness. Many local workers of CCRI, Inc. and other organizations that provide care for those working through mental illness or other disabilities also attended our event. I was ecstatic to see people in the community taking action to educate themselves on mental illness so that they could offer better care to their clients and patients. It is amazing that we were able to not only incorporate various Concordia College disciplines into our event, but also local businesses and community members as well. We are all on the same team working to end the stigma behind mental illness.
4. Cultivate an examined cultural, ethical, physical and spiritual self-understanding
College is all about “finding yourself.” Who are you? Who do you want to be? To be honest, I am still figuring that out. I learn new things about myself every single day. My perspectives are broadened and changed as I experience new things and continue to grow in my liberal arts education. Next to religion, no class has rattled me quite like neurochemistry though. Every week held a new daunting topic that honestly led us all to the conclusion that “we are screwed.” Every horrible neurological disease seemed to stem from an unhealthy diet and lack of exercise, which could potentially be the definition of TODAY’S SOCIETY. With that being said, I have gained a new perspective on diet and exercise throughout this course. To me, diet and exercise no longer solely mean rock-solid abs and a sculpted booty (although I wish). Diet and exercise means taking care of my physical AND mental health, taking care of my brain! A healthy brain is required for living your best life, and if I want to continue to BREW, I need to take care of my brain. So, in a way, I have grown throughout this neurochemistry course and have developed a greater understanding and appreciation for healthy eating and exercise. Speaking of that, I still need to get my workout in for the day (yay..)!
I have also discovered my own abilities throughout this course. I have never been particularly confident in my ability to succeed, but as of late I have started to learn exactly what I am capable of. In the summer of 2016 while on a May seminar in Tanzania, I climbed to the highest point in Africa: the top of Mt. Kilimanjaro. I never thought that I would make it. But I was resilient and I overcame even the toughest of mental challenges to push my body to the top of that mountain. Climbing the mountain is similar to my education at Concordia. There are many challenges thrown my way each semester, but I prove to myself that I CAN persevere. I was initially frightened with our neurochemistry exams, which involved us having to critically analyze neurochemistry information and hypothesize a potential pathway to explain the given information within a short time period. I had many self-doubts before the first exam. However, after pushing through and exerting my best knowledge and efforts on the first exam, I received great feedback that helped me to learn and believe in myself. Again, with our community action project, I never imagined putting together such a successful event as it was. Our event was televised on the local news station WDAY; what more could we have asked for? Neurochemistry has taught me that I am capable of anything I set my mind and heart to.
5. Encourage responsible participation in the world
All of this, the great liberal arts education we all paid a great price for, means nothing if we fail to use it to better our world. This does not mean that we need to spend thousands of dollars and travel the world volunteering (although that sounds amazing, right?) or that we need to be involved in local politics (because let’s be honest, that doesn’t sound too appealing with today’s politics). It means that we need to take our knowledge and expertise and use them to whatever degree we deem fit. This is exactly what we did through our community action projects. We took our various areas of expertise and combined them in effort to educate the community about the neurological origins of mental illness and end the stigma. If becoming responsibility engaged in the world means that I will take my medical shadowing experiences, scientific knowledge, and communication skills to become a better physician for my future patients, that is GREAT. If my passion for life-long learning allows me to go above and beyond for my patients, ROCK ON. Then I have succeeded in becoming responsibly engaged in this great world. It is doing whatever YOU can do with what you have to offer, to make this world better. It is affecting even one life for the better. It matters. It takes all of us to make this world great, and I can confidently say that through my community action project for neurochemistry, I have only just begun my part.