Switching my major from Biomedical Engineering to Women & Gender Studies was one of the best decisions I made. In my work as a surgeon and global health activist, I daily use the skills obtained during my WGSS education. Unlike some other majors, WGSS focuses not only on the acquisition of information but also the study of how that acquisition happens. In other words, WGSS imparts essentials skills that allow the student to confront any situation, new or otherwise, and examine and critique multiple viewpoints, benefits, flaws, and interactions. These skills, while learned in the already broad context of gender and sexuality, are far more applicable than even that. In nearly every social interaction I have or witness, my education helps me interpret and navigate. I use these problem-solving techniques not just in diagnosing and treating patients but also in the necessarily multidisciplinary practice of medicine. At a busy trauma center where I work, our patients often have to be rushed to the operating room with little data. Troubleshooting massive hemorrhage can require creativity and thinking outside of the box in a way that feels more familiar to me than to some of my science-focused colleagues. Further, in the chaos of trauma bay, strong yet respectful leadership is critical. Managing students, trainee physicians, nurses, techs, airway specialists, and other physicians--all caring for an important aspect of the critically ill patient in sometimes contradictory ways--can be a daunting task. Again, the skills of WGSS play an essential role.
WGSS has helped me develop my own worldview of justice and injustice. While my work providing technical expertise and rewriting policy on Haiti and cholera with the UN, the US Congress, or foreign governments does not directly involve gender or sexuality, my very understanding of what justice is and how it should be achieved is founded in the skills from my major. Speaking about UN culpability in the introduction of cholera into Haiti at UN military departments or the UN Security Council is akin to walking into the lion's den. I could not navigate these politically explosive situations or work with people who are so different from me if it weren't for my training at the WGSS department.
Certainly WGSS helps students better understand social relationships, gender, and sexuality. But WGSS also prepares students to critically think in any situation, whether or not they have encountered it before. That skill set is indispensable. Many majors follow careers dissimilar from their initial training. WGSS casts the widest net in that sense. Regardless of whether or not my work involves gender or sexuality issues, I know that I have been trained to succeed efficiently, empathetically, creatively, and justly.