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Careers in Medicine and Healthcare

English teaches essential skills like connection, empathy, and creative thinking.

How does an English degree lead to a career in Health? Ask one of our MD alumni, or join us courses, events, and alumni mentoring sessions. Physicians depend on narrative, “soft skills,” and listening for the story, all of which are fundamental to the English major. Choose from classes like Madness in Literature (English 254), Medicine and Literature (English 342), Horses in Literature and Culture (English 398), a graduate-level Disability Studies in Literature course (590), or classes in gender and sexuality, like English 332, 402, or 425.

Interviews with Alumni in the Field

UTK English Roundtable on Careers in Medicine

Dr. Daniel Wallace spoke with two alumni about how studying English impacted their medical careers.

Leigh Ball

English Major to Sleep Medicine: Dr. Leigh Ball’s Career Path

Dr. Leigh Ball uses her English degree to improve patient care.

Ashley Barker

English Majors Don’t Have Limits: Ashley Barker and ORNL

Former English Major Flourishes as Section Head for Operations at the Oak Ridge Leadership Computing Facility

Carolyn Thompson

From English to MD: Carolyn Thompson

The English-student-to-physician pathway is less rare than one might think—medicine, after all, is highly creative.


There’s an art and a science to medicine: premed courses deal with the scientific dimension of illness, while English the interactive, creative side. Medicine, after all, is highly creative. In surgery, for instance, “everything you do changes something, and you have to be prepared to deal with that change in circumstance.” No wonder medical schools want students with the nuanced, supple intelligence that English studies cultivates.

—interview with English Major Dr. Carolyn Thompson (’88)