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Arjun Mann: Building a Strong Foundation For Medical School

Arjun Mann, ’19SPS, Bioethics, is in his first year of medical school at the University of New England. He discusses the path that led him there, from his undergraduate major in philosophy, to his courses in the Philosophy of Bioethics and Clinical Ethics at Columbia. 

What brought you to apply to the M.S. in Bioethics program? 

I attended California State University, Fresno, where I started studying biology, but switched to major in philosophy. After college, I knew my ultimate goal was to pursue medical school, and I would be in the science field for most of my life. So I wanted to first bridge the gap between my critical thinking/liberal arts education and my STEM education. 

Applying to medical school takes a full calendar year. In the meantime, I decided to pursue a master’s degree in something I was passionate about. I cast a broad net before choosing bioethics. I wanted to join a program that had excellent repute, especially within the bioethics community, since it’s such a new field. I wanted a program with faculty on the cutting edge. Columbia kept popping up in my research. 

SPS lets you do the entire program online if you’d like. I wanted to be in New York, but I also needed the flexibility required to apply to medical school and participate in the interviews. The program worked with me so that I was able to complete the first semester at home, online, and the second semester in New York City. I loved the flexibility in both the location and the number of semesters in which I was allowed to complete the degree. 

What were some of your favorite or most impactful courses?

I loved the diversity of the course roster, and how rigorous the entirety of the program was. People have different conceptions of what bioethics means to them. Many of my classmates, for example, went into law after the degree. For me, I appreciated both the philosophy and the science aspects of the program. As I was a philosophy major in undergrad, I gravitated to Dr. Arthur Kuflik’s classes, The Philosophy of Bioethics and Reproductive Ethics. I didn’t expect to take a class on Qualitative Methods and Research, which Dr. Kim Hopper taught, but I am so glad I did. The class honed my interviewing skills, and introduced me to the sociology side of bioethics. Academic Director Dr. Robert Klitzman’s teaching has stuck with me the most as I enter medical school. His courses were exactly what I imagined the field of bioethics to encompass. Dr. Barbara Rothschild’s fantastic Introduction to Clinical Ethics course allowed us to sit in on clinical ethics meetings at hospitals. 

This access to area hospitals was one of the most unique and engaging parts of the program. Dr. Klitzman is very connected, he’s a prolific writer, and has garnered a lot of respect from his peers, which plays a part in getting us permission to sit in on these meetings and watch the professionals debate ethical cases. The panel removes identifying information and a group of twenty or so professionals, experts in their respective fields, discusses the issues and provides recommendations for clinical ethics responses for similar cases in the future. One of my goals is now to not only practice medicine, but to be a part of one of these ethics committees in a hospital. 

The faculty always impressed me with the depth of their expertise, and the breadth of their knowledge across different fields. They had ‘textbook names’--as in, they were authors of the textbooks everyone read. 

Has your Bioethics degree differentiated you among your new peers in medical school?

Right now, we are all in the same boat--we’re in a full academic environment, studying and taking in as much knowledge as possible. My bioethics background will really come into play once I’m able to interact with other providers, patients, and physicians. I’m excited to practice medicine and simultaneously advise in an ethics role. This degree did a wonderful job preparing me for that.  

I can see how the degree has helped other physicians in the program, from the Columbia alumni I’ve met. We have a very warm, tight-knit community. I’m proud of the network of friends I’ve made in the program, from other aspiring physicians, to those who want to go into law. Having connections in these different worlds will no doubt help me in the future. 


Learn more about the M.S. in Bioethics program at Columbia University.