Catherine Sheils

Catherine Sheils, '13

How did studying Sociology as an undergrad influence you to enter medicine?

When I started at Harvard, I was leaning towards a career in medicine, but decided to choose a concentration in the social sciences to broaden and enrich my education. I was introduced to the Sociology department through Sociology 128, the research methods course, and found that sociologists ask questions about the world that interested me, using the tools of quantitative analysis as well as the depth of qualitative methods. I ultimately chose to concentrate in Sociology for those reasons as well for the opportunity to take small seminars, the stellar advising, and the department’s focus on research. As a Sociology concentrator, I took courses on urban inequality, mass incarceration, American education, public health, and healthcare policy.

Sociology uniquely blends academic rigor with pragmatism; the department encouraged me and my classmates to study social phenomena occurring around us, both within and beyond the Harvard bubble. I had the fortunate opportunity to take a junior research seminar on urban inequality and mass incarceration that met weekly in Framingham prison, a female medium security prison just outside of Boston. My senior thesis project led me to study the implementation of violence intervention programs within Boston hospitals. Throughout my experience, my professors and advisors equipped me with the academic tools and personal support needed to move beyond an analysis of social problems, to investigate improvements to flawed social systems. I believe that the analytic tools and applied, pragmatic approach of the Sociology department are useful for those pursuing careers in medicine, public health, and/or social policy.

 What are your plans?

After I graduated in 2013, I took a year-long position as a clinical research coordinator at the Emergency Medicine Network, a research department within the Massachusetts General Hospital. I helped coordinate a suicide prevention program in 8 emergency departments across the country. In August 2014, I will begin medical school. I was frequently asked about my background in sociology and my senior thesis project during my interviews for my post-graduate position and for medical school. I plan to combine a career in medicine with social policy.