Shortly after I graduated college, I felt the need to get some research experience before going to medical school. I got a job working for a National Science Foundation-associated research center in the hopes that laboratory work would better prepare me for medical school. I was wrong. I’ll save any discussion for my disdain for academia later. For right now, I want to make you aware of the rare engineer that enters medicine.
While most pre-meds major in some variation of biology or chemistry, there are no formal requirements of what subject a person must pursue in his college training. Few people know what engineering really is. Sure, most know that it has something to do with applied science, but the similarities between the different engineering fields end there. My alma mater offered over a dozen undergraduate majors through the college of engineering—all of them vastly different after finishing the core requirements. Unfortunately, medical students tend to assume that we’re all natural geniuses when working with computers. Although I was not a computer engineer, I been trapped in the following conversations:
Med student: You’re an engineer, right? Can you help me set up the wi-fi on my computer?
Me: I don’t own a laptop and I don’t know anything about how wi-fi works. My guess is that you would double-click on the “Wireless Network Connection” icon.
Student: I hear you’re good with computers. What do you think about Dell laptops?
Me: I would stay away from them. The company uses bad hardware and has a history of poor customer service.
Student: Oh, I’ve already purchased a Dell laptop.
Me: Then why are you asking me this now?
Students and teachers (lots of them): Can you figure out what’s wrong with the projector/PowerPoint presentation/sound on this audio file/my USB drive?
And my personal favorite…
Student: I forgot my password. Can you tell me what it is?
I still don’t understand how people can be so woefully ignorant of my profession. I don’t stop classmates in the hallway and ask, “You’re a biology major, right? Can you tell me how to grow a tree?”
There are also a lot of social stereotypes regarding engineers. Apparently, we’re all inept at interacting with others and don’t know how to start conversations with strangers, sell products, or even write coherent sentences. While I’ve met a few people that fit this mold, I’ve come across my fair share of liberal arts majors who are so out of touch with reality you’d think that the mother ship is about to come calling any minute. Engineers were the nicest, genuinely fun people I’ve ever been around. When I think about all of the drama that my medical classmates push on each other, I miss the carefree days when I didn’t have to fear getting stabbed in the back by a co-worker who would start rumors or spread gossip. Sure, few women ever go into the field (that’s one stereotype that is true), but I’ve noticed that engineers are the happiest group of people I’ve ever been around.