Collaboration and Collegiality

Among the faculty and students in the Pre-Professional Health Sciences Program at Seattle Pacific University, collaboration and collegiality are paramount. In cultivating people of wisdom and promoting grace-filled community, we hope to mitigate pre-health anxieties and promote a healthier outlook on the undergraduate experience and future professional possibilities. Why? At colleges and universities across the country, faculty perceive pre-health students as suffering from “premedical syndrome.” Anxiety and unwholesome competition undermine prehealth students across the board. What is premedical syndrome?

Academics interested in premedical students have provided research that describes how these students take an instrumental approach to their studies that emphasizes grades over experience as well as a Machiavellian approach to their relationships with faculty, mentors, and peers. The students tend to overemphasize grades and experience a deep-seated cynicism about their colleagues and the value of a liberal education.

The literature describes with concern premedical student as a group who have a “long-held reputation for being narrowly focused academically, caring only about obtaining the high grades and test scores needed for admission to medical school.” This mindset, however, can impact students in any science-based academic program. Medical educators and others have echoed the same concern that an anxiety-driven and hyper-competitive focus tends to negatively impact an individual’s relationships with faculty and with their peers. Moreover, it doesn’t require much reflection to determine the conflict between competition and patient care.

In PPHS, we hope to move students from competition to collaboration and collegiality.

In regards to collegiality, our goal is to shift students toward friendly engagement and then to truly collegial relationships in the classroom and social settings. The long-term implications of premedical syndrome are clear. According to Cheng et al., students manifesting negative pre-health syndrome tend to devote “less time to social and extracurricular activities, were more likely to choose medicine as their future career choice at a much earlier age, and based the choice on income and prestige.” We aspire to build a learning community inhabited by students who are winsome in relationships and approach competition with self-confidence and graciousness.

Collaborative relationships in health care, according to David J. Tipton, involve “working together, sharing responsibilities for problem-solving, and marking plans for patient care.” These are longer-term goals for one’s professional life in health care. During the undergraduate experience at Seattle Pacific University, we hope to initiate each student into a distinctive academic community that is based on openness, respect, teamwork, and trust.

Beyond developing a collaborative ethos, we encourage our students to take responsibility for their own achievement and well-being. Additionally, we strongly urge our pre-professionals to support the efforts of their colleagues in practical terms. This approach might include moving beyond helping with homework to sharing a cup of coffee or a meal. Collaborative and collegial relationships share many attributes. Our faculty hope that the combined dimensions of academic support, equity, and hospitality will lead to long-term professional friendships among future program alumni.