Photo of Sydney Phu in front of flower bush

Sydney Phu MHC ‘19. Check out this article on Sydney's internship experience at the Mayo Clinic.

Sydney was born in southern California and moved to Beaverton, Oregon when she was ten. At OSU, she majored in BioHealth Sciences with a minor in chemistry and a medical humanities certificate.

Why did you choose to attend OSU?                                      

I chose to study at OSU because the students and faculty are incredibly talented and dedicated. Although the university is large, students and professors hold each other to the highest standards and are still able to create a community of support and encouragement, which allowed me to pursue my goals and feel safe doing so.

Why did you choose to seek a certificate in the medical humanities?       

I chose to pursue a certificate in the medical humanities because knowing how to guide the progress and direction of healthcare is just as important as the science behind the practice itself. It is especially important for those going into health professions to be able to understand the social and cultural dimensions of their decisions. The medical humanities certificate helped me balance hard sciences with humanities in my academics and turned me into a more well-rounded student.

What has been your favorite course so far and why?                                                       

My favorite medical humanities course so far has been Dr. Campbell’s Biomedical Ethics class. It asked many of the important questions that need to be considered in regards to the development of new medical technologies and the physician-patient relationship. My favorite aspect was that, unlike many of my biology and chemistry classes, there was no right answer to any of these questions. The best we could do was to weigh the risks and benefits evaluate our own values. Since many students in the class came from STEM backgrounds, it was a bit uncomfortable to not have a definitive answer, but the ability to wrestle with these ideas was the best part because it helped me develop my own points of view and learn how to defend them.     

What are some extracurricular activities that you are involved in and what do you like about them?       

In my spare time, I serve as an officer for OSU’s Bioethics Society where I can help facilitate conversations on the role of ethics in medicine with my peers. I also serve as Community Outreach Coordinator for Sigma Delta Omega, OSU’s sorority for Women in Science. This role has been particularly rewarding because our sorority works hard to promote STEM careers among young girls and provide support for other women pursuing STEM degrees. Since cultural engagement and diversity is also a passion of mine, I am also honored to serve as a Student Leadership Liaison at the Asian and Pacific Cultural Center.

What skills do you feel you have learned by taking medical humanities courses?

Medical humanities courses have helped me develop my critical thinking skills and sympathy. I have become more flexible in my thinking and am able to approach problems from multiple different angles. I am better at analyzing situations within social, historical, and cultural contexts as well as considering multiple perspectives which is important when trying to add a human dimension into science and medicine.

How has a medical humanities certificate helped you see your major differently?       

My major classes teach me what is important to know, but my medical humanities classes have shown me why it is important in the grand scheme of things. Learning about how the world works through a purely science-based point of view is limiting because this knowledge is only useful if we know how to apply the information to solve problems and make improvements in our world. My classes are much more diverse and relevant as a result and I get a more well-rounded education.

Have you had a chance to work on any research projects?
Currently, I am conducting research on stem cell tourism in the Biomedical Ethics Research department at the Mayo Clinic. I have also worked as a research assistant for the Hallie Ford Center for Health Children and Families for the past year which allowed me to develop a great respect for the research process. I also got to learn some bench work and basic lab techniques during my time at the University of Minnesota’s virology lab. All of these experiences have shown me the level of care and patience required to conduct research and how rewarding it is to be able to contribute to the existing pool of knowledge.

What do you hope to achieve in your future career?     

No matter which career I pursue in the future, I hope that I can help provide more equitable healthcare and work to alleviate the burden on vulnerable social groups to improve quality of life for all. I want to use the knowledge and skills I have gained to identify who is most in need and work to eliminate the disparities that limit people from living their best lives. In the end, I just want help others feel well enough that they can pay it forward and continue to be agents of positive change.