When people learn that Micahlyn Powers is a UW English major, they often respond with bewilderment. How is that possible? After all, says Micahlyn “they’re pretty sure English majors can’t go to med school!” Yet, medical school is precisely what lies ahead for Micahlyn, whose first academic love has always been literary study.
Micahlyn, a successful Running Start student at Everett Community College, transferred to the UW in 2002, planning to complete a degree in the natural sciences. But, she says, “the prospect of complete immersion in the field of science held little appeal to me.” Luckily, she discovered that she could complete her required premed curriculum while majoring in English, a choice that would allow her to “indulge” her personal interest in literature. As she continued in her course work, Micahlyn found that majoring in English was not self-indulgence, but actually a valuable means of preparing for a medical career. Not only does literature help to develop greater cultural sensitivity, Micahlyn explains, it also helps prepare physicians who “have to be able to relate and communicate effectively.”
Micahlyn has benefited from the mentoring and support of numerous UW faculty and friends, including fine instructors such as Anu Taranath, Linda Watts (UW Bothell), and Afton Crooks, generous sponsor of the Wooley Scholarship which was awarded to Micahlyn in Spring 2004. But the most important mentor in Micahlyn’s life has undoubtedly been her mother who encouraged Micahlyn to think big, beyond her initial ideas of a career as an EMT or nurse. Once the dream of becoming an emergency physician was planted, it propelled Micahlyn into energetic action. Not only has she succeeded in the grueling premed science courses, she has also sought out hands-on medical experience, starting with accompanying the Marysville EMTs on calls and leading to volunteering in the Emergency Department of Evergreen Hospital.
Micahlyn, a self-described “adrenaline junky” who does road races and duathlons in her “spare time,” has found the perfect niche for herself in ER work. Once she got past the initial “queasiness,” she was able to discover both the fascination and rewards of emergency medicine. The “coolest” experience she has had so far was helping in a medical team attempt to revive a drowning victim. Their efforts failed, but the experience of participating in the team dynamic and learning how medical professionals make hard choices and live with them was electric. Micahlyn relishes the prospect of a career that makes her think quickly, to be “all there,” and to make “good split-second decisions.”
Until graduation in Spring 2005, Micahlyn will focus on program completion and undergraduate research, a job that will be made significantly easier with the Wooley scholarship. This fall she will join the Undergraduate Research Program by working with Professor Linda Watts of UW Bothell on a project in American Folklore, examining omens, portents, folk healing traditions, and midwifery. This project exemplifies the wonderful interdisciplinary blending of Micahlyn’s education. “My goal as an undergraduate student is to continue to integrate my interest in both the literary arts and the natural sciences because one discipline informs the other and helps me to better understand the whole of the human condition.”
For those who wonder why a future doctor would choose English as her major, there could be no better answer!