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Medical Humanities Program Opens Doors for Jenna Kwiecinski MedHum’20, BMS’20

By Nicole Carrera

Published on July 7, 2020

Jenna Kwiecinski MedHum’20, BMS’20Jenna Kwiecinski MedHum’20, BMS’20 was not unfamiliar with science and research when she came to USciences. Having gone to a science-based vocational high school, Kwiecinski was awarded a scholarship to USciences for her independent research and was able to hone her skills while pursuing her degrees.

A pre-med student studying Biomedical Sciences, Kwiecinski picked up a second major, Medical Humanities, to indulge her interests and expand her perspective.

Kwiecinski’s accomplishments at USciences were demonstrated in many ways, including her senior capstone research project, entitled “Fluid Genres: Gender Identity in James Joyce’s Ulysses and Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home”.

Kwiecinski was first introduced to James Joyce in high school when she read “Araby.” 

“I figured if Joyce could captivate and fascinate me in the few pages of this short story, then his infamous novel would be even more alluring and stimulating,” Kwiecinski shares. “During the fall semester of my senior year, I read Ulysses alongside my research advisor, Jeffrey Brown PhD, and we had weekly meetings to discuss any topic that stood out to me.”

Reading Joyce’s Ulysses is no small feat. At 730 pages, the novel has been the subject of numerous literary debates since its publication in 1922. While Kwiecinski had years of scientific research under her belt, she had yet to conduct humanities research when she undertook this challenge.

“Conducting research in the humanities was unlike anything I have ever done”

-- Jenna Kwiecinski

“Conducting research in the humanities was unlike anything I have ever done,” she said. “While reading Ulysses, I realized that the subject of identity was a topic of conversation that Dr. Brown and I often had. Gender identity was a subject that I never really had the opportunity to study.”

Upon finishing Ulysses, Kwiecinski felt that her research was missing a key piece. This dissatisfaction led her to delve into Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home, a graphic novel about Bechdel’s childhood which addresses themes of sexual orientation, gender identity, and more. “Overall, my capstone project explores the fluidity of gender identity and the impact that an individual’s experiences have on their understanding of gender,” Kwiecinski explains. 

Since finishing her undergraduate degrees at USciences, Kwiecinski is attending Cooper Medical School of Rowan University, and hopes to continue her career path into a residency program, and, eventually, as a practicing physician. “Being a student in the medical humanities program at USciences has molded me into a humanistic individual, and the skills and lessons that I have learned will help me recognize and understand my patients as a future physician.”

“While I was originally drawn to USciences for their rigorous science curriculum, I also developed a strong interest in the humanities” Kwiecinski shares. “I originally wanted to pursue environmental science; however, USciences helped me discover my passion for healthcare and medicine.”

As her interest in humanities grew, Kwiecinski quickly filled her time at USciences with a double major in Medical Humanities and Biomedical Sciences. She credits her experience in the medical humanities program with building her confidence and opening many doors for her.

Jenna Kwiecinski and Christine Flanagan“Before I was a medical humanities major, I was a very passive and uninvolved student,” Kwiecinski said, “I simply listened to the lecture, took notes, and addressed any questions or confusion that I had later on. My humanities classes encouraged me to break out of my shell.”

Kwiecinski credits Christine Flanagan MFA, professor of English, in particular for making a lasting impact on her during her time at USciences. “Christine Flanagan has taught me lessons both in and out of the classroom,” Kwiecinski shares. “I learned to embrace my ‘bright spots’, to dare to stand out, and to accept and welcome failure. [Flanagan] encouraged me to push my limits and to stand out. I would not be the person I am today without Professor Flanagan.”

In addition to her dual major, Kwiecinski was also on the women’s volleyball team, as well as in the Honors Program. Her experiences in the program influenced her life in many ways, and she recognizes them as shaping her both personally and professionally. “During my time at USciences, I traveled to seven different countries, I tap danced on top of the Eiffel Tower, and I completed over 500 hours of community service,” she said.

Jenna Kwiecinski MedHum’20, BMS’20One of Kwiecinski’s fondest memories from her time at USciences is a volunteer trip that she took to Peru alongside other honors students. With the help of Kevin Wolbach MS, director of the Environmental Science program, Kwiecinski was able to participate in various environmental and healthcare campaigns and worked with animals at a rehabilitation center. 

To present and prospective USciences students, Kwiecinski’s advice is simple- pursue more knowledge in any topic that interests you. “The opportunities at USciences are endless, and I promise that you will be able to find a professor or faculty member that will be able to help you accomplish your goals.”

Categories: Misher College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Humanities, Medical Humanities, Biomedical Sciences, Research,