March 18, 1999
Vol. 18 No. 12

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    [amy lehman] by jason smithAmy Lehman, Assistant Director of the Biological Sciences Writing Program, helped get the program started at the beginning of the Fall Quarter.

    Biology students master the pen and microscope

    By Sharon Parmet
    Medical Center Public Affairs

    The University has always emphasized the importance of good writing. Reinforcing these values, the Biological Sciences Writing Program teaches biology and premed students how to most clearly express complex, scientific ideas in their writing projects.

    “Writing well is an important skill for any student to have,” said Jose Quintans, Master of the Biological Sciences Collegiate Division. “For scientists and doctors, it is especially important because they often need to express complex ideas to audiences that do not have medical or scientific backgrounds.”

    With the help of former teaching assistant Amy Lehman, now Assistant Director of the Biological Sciences Writing Program, Quintans incorporates writing assignments into biology course work.

    “We recognized that there is sometimes a deficiency in a student’s ability to write effectively when it comes to biology and science in general. We wanted to create a program that focuses on what it means to write well, and then have workshops and instruction to help biology majors and premed students become better writers within the context of their science classes,” said Lehman.

    “Non-textbook readings help students gain a broader perspective of what they are studying. They’ll learn about the biology of a disease as well as its epidemiology, its history and its evolution. This is the kind of cross-disciplinary class that really reflects the University’s tradition of producing well-rounded students,” said Lehman.

    Quintans and Lehman solicited the help of Larry McEnerney, Director of the University Writing Programs, to develop a curriculum that would fit the needs of biology professors. “Amy and Jose approached me for suggestions on how to teach students to write and how to structure their assignments. Because the Writing Program has been in place for more than 20 years, we can also act as a resource for students participating in classes that have adopted a writing-intensive curriculum,” said McEnerney. “We thought the best way to implement the program would be by using teaching assistants with biology or science backgrounds as teachers,” McEnerney explained.

    During the Spring Quarter, the Biological Sciences Writing Program will offer a class designed from the ground up by Lehman and Quintans. A series of lectures on the history of medicine, given by University faculty, will be offered in the new course, “Mens sana in corpore sano: An Apocryphal History of Medicine.”

    Participating in the lecture series are Glenn Steele Jr., Dean of the Biological Sciences Division, who will talk about how medicine was practiced in 16th-century Scotland during his lecture, “Surgery in the Time of James IV, King of Scotland;” John Boyer, Dean of the College, who will discuss religion’s role in medicine in his lecture, “Science and Faith in the 19th Century: The Healing Powers of the Virgin Mary;” and Sander Gilman, Professor and Chairman of Germanic Studies and the Henry R. Luce Distinguished Service Professor of Liberal Arts in Human Biology, who will present “The Origins of Aesthetic Surgery and the Redefinition of the Function of Medicine, 1880-1920.”

    Also speaking will be 1985 Nobel Peace Prize laureate Herbert Abrams, who helped found the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War Foundation.

    “The History of Medicine class is really a gift to our departing seniors,” said Quintans. “We really want to give them something to remember their years of academic pursuit and enjoyment at the University.”