Pursuing a Medical Career with a Humanities Perspective

A triple major in biology, sociology, and Italian, Julia Santini ’21 is heading to medical school with a broad perspective.

Sometimes, seemingly disparate decisions have a design that comes clear only in hindsight.

Such is true for Julia Santini ’21, who is entering Brown University’s Warren Alpert Medical School this summer. Santini was admitted to Brown through the Early Identification Program, a cooperative venture between Brown, URI, and a select few other Rhode Island schools. The program exists, in part, to increase opportunities for Rhode Island students to pursue medical careers.

In 2020, medical schools nationwide saw a 20 percent rise in applications—a phenomenon the media has linked to Dr. Anthony Fauci’s prominence during the pandemic. Journalists and medical schools alike have taken to calling it the “Fauci effect.” And Santini has something in common with America’s most recognizable doctor, who was a classics major as an undergraduate. Like Dr. Fauci, Santini is equally at home in the STEM disciplines and the humanities.

Initially a biology major in the Honors Program, Santini added a second major, sociology, and then a third, Italian. By her sophomore year, she’d decided on a career in medicine. “There are many careers you can go into with a biology major,” she says. “But I always had health care in the back of my mind.”

“In the beginning, it seemed like my three fields of study were diverse and segmented, but they’re actually interconnected. I see them really as three different ways to look at people. In biology, you’re looking at people’s cells and organ systems and how those things make a human being function. In sociology, you’re looking at how people become who they are based on their social context and what impact their environment has on them. As for Italian, I love studying culture and looking at what makes humans create art and language.

“I really see it all as three different perspectives on humanity.”

For her honors project and thesis, Santini investigated home-birthing practices in the United States and around the globe. “Women’s health is something that I’ve become increasingly interested in,” she says. “I did an independent study looking at global perspectives on reproduction as part of my sociology degree.”

Santini was president of URI’s pre-med club, secretary of URI Women in STEM, and, pre-pandemic, was involved in Alternative Spring Break, a student-run global service organization. She also led a student group working with Habitat for Humanity in Guatemala. As a pre-health advisor for URI’s Pre-Health Professions Advising Program, Santini talked with incoming students about the program, as well as courses and clubs they might be interested in joining.

Santini is still considering what area of medicine she’ll specialize in. She’s interested in primary care and family medicine.

“Part of the reason why I’m interested in family medicine is that that specialty allows you to take a holistic view of people and the community.” •

—Marybeth Reilly-McGreen

PHOTOS: NORA LEWIS

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