Medical Student Parlayed Anthropology Major Into Public Health Study
Published September 2006
“Surreal” is the word one first-year College of Medicine student used to describe her experience at the annual White Coat Ceremony. And, after her first full week of classes, Courtney Crane-Sherman is still a little “weirded-out” by the whole thing.
Crane-Sherman joined her new classmates in August when they formally received their white coats and made official their entrance to medical school.
This Princeton University graduate—who has wanted to be a doctor since her freshman year of high school—has a hard time believing she's well on her way to achieving that goal.
”As I watched my classmates cross the stage and receive their coats, they looked different to me,” she says. “It was as if we were all changing a little.”
As an undergraduate student, Crane-Sherman studied anthropology, a major she chose after writing a final paper for her culture and memory course—on the relationship between Pillsbury cookie dough and the changing role of women in society.
”As I was editing my paper, I ran into one of my sorority sisters who was studying anthropology,” says Crane-Sherman. “I described my topic to her, and she told me that I ‘had to be an anthropology major.’”
It was a good choice for Crane-Sherman, considering she wasn’t able to dig as deep into her original choice of molecular biology as quickly as she would have liked.
During her sophomore year, she padded her schedule with medical anthropology and American family law and society classes. After those courses, she says she was “hooked.”
But because anthropology isn’t a common major for premed students, Crane-Sherman took advantage of her junior and senior years to explore the doctor/patient relationship. She studied why some public health programs worked better than others at attracting interest, and whether modern medicine can span cultures and languages.
“Anthropology is a discipline that lets you think laterally and incorporate knowledge from all fields of study,” says Crane-Sherman.
“Rather than being hyper-focused on a single process or event, it really allows you to think contextually, historically, scientifically and socially.
“Aside from that, it was really fun and also incredibly interesting on a personal level. There were always faces and anecdotes to my research.”
Although she’s just beginning her medical training, Crane-Sherman has some ideas about where she’d like to end up.
Her interests range from public health to pediatrics to family medicine, and she has also considered spending some time with the Medical Services Corps. Right now, though, endocrinology has piqued her interest.
“I think it would be challenging to work with the rising diabetes epidemic,” she says. “I’ll just have to see where the next few years take me.”